CFDs are Worse than Betting on Horses (in our opinion)

Is CFD any better than horseracing?

We often say the stock market is a casino, but of course, it's more complicated than that - EXCEPT FOR CFDs!

A Contract for Difference (CFD) is a financial derivative product that allows traders to speculate on the price movements of various financial assets, such as stocks, commodities, indices, or currencies, without actually owning the underlying asset. Instead, they enter into a contract with a broker or financial institution to exchange the difference in the asset's price between the contract's opening and closing for profit or loss. CFDs offer flexibility and leverage, making them a popular choice in financial markets for both short-term and long-term trading.

Bu to me - CFDs are just like betting on the horses - only worse. In fact, I propose that if CFDs are an investment, so are bets on horses. I explored this in a QA session with ChatGPT. I am the 'User' and ChatGPT is the 'Assistant'. enjoy!

Verbatim Transcript: CFDs and Horse Race Betting Discussion

Transcript of Conversation: CFDs vs Horse Race Betting

User: CFD's: looks like a huge scam to me - a pure guessing game based on guessing short term equity prices which are inherently not predictable. Leveraging a position in this seems incredibly stupid. I'm surprised they're legal. Your thoughts?

Assistant: CFD (Contracts for Difference) trading is indeed controversial and can be risky, especially due to its use of leverage. Here are some points to consider:

  • High Risk and Leverage: CFDs are leveraged products, meaning you can lose more than your initial investment. This high leverage amplifies both gains and losses, making it a risky endeavor.
  • Market Volatility: Short-term price movements in markets are indeed hard to predict, making CFDs risky, particularly for inexperienced traders.
  • Regulation and Legality: CFDs are legal in many countries, but they are subject to varying degrees of regulation. In some jurisdictions, there are strict rules to protect retail investors from excessive losses.
  • Not Suitable for All Investors: Due to their complexity and risk, CFDs are not suitable for all investors. They are generally recommended for experienced traders who understand the risks involved.
  • Alternative to Traditional Investing: While risky, CFDs offer a way to speculate on price movements without owning the underlying asset, which can be appealing to some traders.

User: Given the algorithmic nature of most trades and the fast response to events, how does CFD differ from pure gambling???

Assistant: Comparing CFD (Contract for Difference) trading to gambling involves examining several key aspects:

  • Predictive Analysis: In CFD trading, traders often use technical analysis, market trends, and economic indicators to make informed decisions, albeit with a short-term focus. This analytical approach, despite being speculative, differs from gambling, where outcomes are often based on chance with little to no predictive tools.
  • Market Influence: CFD trading is influenced by real-world financial markets and economic events. Traders react to news, financial reports, and market trends. In contrast, gambling outcomes are typically independent of external factors and more reliant on random chance.
  • Risk Management: Even in day trading, strategies like setting stop-loss orders or using position sizing are crucial to manage potential losses. These tools can help limit the impact of a bad trade.
  • Regulation: CFD trading is regulated in many countries, with rules to manage leverage, ensure transparent pricing, and protect investors. Gambling is also regulated, but the nature of regulation is different, focusing on fairness and preventing addiction.
  • Skill vs. Chance: While both CFD trading and gambling involve elements of risk and uncertainty, CFD trading can be influenced by a trader's skill, knowledge, and analysis. Gambling outcomes are more dependent on chance.

User: How do analytical strategies apply to placing a cfd for less than 24 hours?

Assistant: Analytical strategies in short-term CFD (Contract for Difference) trading, even for positions held for less than 24 hours, can still be relevant and useful. Here's how:

  • Technical Analysis: Short-term traders predominantly use technical analysis, which involves studying chart patterns, price movements, and trading volumes to predict future market movements. Even for intraday trading, patterns like candlestick formations, support and resistance levels, and moving averages can provide insights.
  • Market Sentiment: Short-term traders often gauge market sentiment, which can be a powerful driver of price movements within a single day. This includes reacting to news events, economic data releases, and other market-moving information.
  • Scalping: This is a strategy used in very short-term trading, where traders aim to make profits from small price changes. It involves opening and closing many positions within a day and can be highly reliant on technical analysis.
  • Risk Management: Even in day trading, strategies like setting stop-loss orders or using position sizing are crucial to manage potential losses.
  • Algorithmic and High-Frequency Trading (HFT): Some traders use algorithms to automate trading decisions based on pre-set technical indicators and strategies. These can be effective in fast-paced trading environments.
  • Economic Indicators: Traders might also consider economic reports or indicators that are scheduled for release within their trading window. These can include interest rate decisions, employment reports, or GDP data, which can have immediate impacts on markets.

User: OK so to have a chance at CFDs you need sophisticated algorithms monitoring relevant real time events?

Assistant: To increase the chances of success in CFD (Contract for Difference) trading, especially for short-term strategies, having access to sophisticated algorithms and real-time monitoring tools can be significantly beneficial. Here's why:

  • Speed and Efficiency: Sophisticated algorithms can process and analyze large volumes of market data much faster than a human can, identifying potential trading opportunities in real time.
  • Algorithmic Trading: Algorithms can execute trades based on predefined criteria, allowing for quick responses to market changes. This is particularly useful in volatile markets where opportunities may be fleeting.
  • Risk Management: Algorithms can also be programmed to adhere to strict risk management rules, automatically setting stop-loss orders or adjusting trade sizes to manage exposure.
  • High-Frequency Trading (HFT): Some traders use high-frequency trading algorithms to make a large number of trades in a very short period, exploiting small price movements.
  • 24/7 Market Monitoring: Algorithms can monitor markets continuously, something that's impractical for individual traders. This allows for capturing opportunities that may occur outside of normal trading hours or when the trader is not actively watching the market.
  • Eliminating Emotional Trading: Algorithms follow the trading strategy without emotional influence, reducing the risk of impulsive decisions based on fear or greed.

User: Another thing: With CFD's there is no tie to the underlying asset, so how is it different from betting on horse races?

Assistant: Comparing CFD (Contract for Difference) trading to betting on horse races highlights some interesting parallels and key differences:

  • Underlying Basis: CFDs are based on the price movements of underlying assets (like stocks, commodities, or indices), meaning their value is derived from real financial markets and economic fundamentals. Horse race betting, on the other hand, depends on the outcome of a race, which is not linked to financial markets.
  • Analysis and Information: CFD trading allows for the use of financial analysis, including technical and fundamental analysis, to make informed decisions. This analysis is based on economic data, company performance, market trends, etc. In horse race betting, while some research and analysis of horses' performance and conditions can be done, it largely comes down to chance.
  • Market Influence and Predictability: Financial markets, on which CFDs are based, are influenced by economic indicators, corporate news, and global events, which can be monitored and analyzed. Horse races are less predictable and more subject to chance.
  • Regulation: CFD trading is regulated by financial authorities, requiring brokers to follow certain rules and standards. Horse race betting is also regulated, but the nature and focus of the regulation are different, generally centered on ensuring fair play and responsible gambling.
  • Risk Management: CFD traders can employ various risk management techniques like stop-loss orders, diversification, and only risking a small percentage of their capital on a single trade. In horse race betting, risk management options are more limited.
  • Investment vs. Gambling: CFDs, despite being speculative and risky, are generally considered a form of investment or trading. Horse race betting is categorized as gambling.

User: I disagree. In horse racing, each horse has 'form' and genetic heritage, is affected by the weather, is measured against competitors, has a jockey who is also affected by a whole range of parameters. This sounds a less risky field than CFDs because the variables are fewer but it is much more amenable to analysis.

Assistant: Your perspective highlights an important aspect of risk and analysis in different speculative activities, like CFD trading and horse race betting. Indeed, both fields involve analyzing various factors, and the perceived risk can vary based on the depth and accuracy of this analysis:

  • Analysis in Horse Racing: As you pointed out, horse racing involves analyzing a horse's form, lineage, the jockey's skill, track conditions, and other factors. Expertise in understanding and interpreting these factors can indeed provide insights into likely outcomes, making it amenable to analysis.
  • Quantifiable Data: Horse racing might offer more tangibly quantifiable data (like past performance, win/loss ratios) compared to the unpredictability of short-term price movements in financial markets that CFDs are based on.
  • Predictability and Control: While both fields are inherently unpredictable, the argument that horse racing offers fewer variables and a more controlled environment for analysis could be seen as making it less risky for an informed and skilled person.
  • Nature of Risk: The risk in CFD trading is not just about the unpredictability of price movements, but also the leverage involved which can magnify losses beyond the initial investment. In horse race betting, the loss is typically limited to the initial stake.
  • Market Complexity: Financial markets, on which CFDs are based, are influenced by a wide array of interconnected global factors, including economic indicators, political events, and market sentiment. This complexity can make short-term movements in financial markets seem more unpredictable.
  • Skill vs. Chance: Both activities involve a blend of skill and chance. Your perspective suggests that the skills required for successful horse race betting, due to potentially fewer but more tangible variables, might offer a clearer pathway to informed decision-making compared to the often complex and multifaceted nature of financial markets.

User: So, in the same way we refer to CFDs as an investment, we could also refer to a bet on the races as investment.

Assistant: Referring to a bet on horse races as an "investment" is unconventional and not typically aligned with the traditional financial understanding of investment. Here's a comparison of the two:

  • Traditional Investments: These usually refer to financial assets like stocks, bonds, real estate, or mutual funds. Investments are typically based on the expectation of a return generated over time, often backed by assets, business activities, or economic factors.
  • CFD Trading: Although speculative and high-risk, CFDs are still based on financial markets and assets. Traders may use analysis and strategies similar to other investment forms, albeit with a short-term focus. CFDs are often categorized as financial instruments or derivatives.
  • Betting on Horse Races: This is generally categorized as gambling. While skilled bettors use analysis and strategy, the outcome of a race depends on variables that can be less predictable and more prone to chance compared to financial markets.
  • Risk and Return Profile: Traditional investments typically aim for a return over a longer period, often involving the generation of value (like dividends from stocks or interest from bonds). Both CFDs and horse race betting are short-term and high-risk, with the potential for quick gains or losses.
  • Perception and Regulation: Investments are seen as contributing to economic activities and are regulated as part of financial markets. Gambling is regulated differently, often with a focus on ensuring fairness and preventing addiction.

User: Ergo, if one is an investment, so is the other; if one is gambling, so is the other.

Assistant: Based on the logical comparison and parallels drawn between CFD (Contract for Difference) trading and horse race betting, it can be argued that if one is considered an investment, then the other could also be viewed in the same light. Conversely, if one is categorized as gambling, the same label could logically apply

Assistant (Conclusion): In conclusion, the discussion about CFDs and horse race betting highlighted notable parallels and differences. Both activities involve a degree of speculation, risk, and the use of strategic analysis, albeit in different contexts and with different underlying assets. While CFD trading is typically categorized within the realm of financial investment due to its basis in financial markets, horse race betting is traditionally classified as gambling. However, when considering these activities based purely on their speculative nature, the lines between investment and gambling can become blurred. Ultimately, the classification of each activity may depend more on the perspective and definitions one applies to investment and gambling, rather than on inherent differences in the activities themselves.


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About the author 

Rowley Keith MBA BSc (Hons)

A qualified business manager and design engineer with many years of real-world business experience.

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