Ethereum ETFs Approved by the SEC? Yes—But Don’t Bet On It


Now that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has approved eight spot Ethereum ETFs, another crypto battle erupted over what “approved” actually means.

That was the debate raging on Polymarkets, at least, after crypto degens bet over $13 million that the SEC would approve a spot Ethereum ETF by May 31.

The open wager went live on January 9 as anticipation of the SEC approval for the first Bitcoin ETFs reached a fever pitch. The fundamental question driving any potential Ethereum ETF approval was whether Ethereum is a security or a commodity—and whether Bitcoin had cleared the path for Ethereum to follow.

Financial analysts and crypto commentators regularly weighed in with their predictions, which grew increasingly pessimistic amid aggressive moves by the SEC against other crypto projects. As a May deadline solidified for a decision, some proposed that a delay would actually be a good thing. Last month, JP Morgan put the odds of approval at 50%.

Polymarket users bet on the question, “Ethereum ETF approved by May 31?” Image: Polymarket

But last week, the mood started to shift: Coinbase opined that an Ethereum ETF would become reality last week, and when two Bloomberg ETF analysts revised their own odds of approval from 25% to 75% on Monday, the price of ETH started to soar.

Polymarket bettors were also watching closely. The collective odds of SEC approval shot up from 13% to over 50% on the site on Monday. When the SEC announced Thursday that it was approving applications for spot Ethereum ETFs, optimistic wagerers were jubilant. Surely the answer to whether an Ethereum ETF would be approved before May 31 was “yes”?

Not so fast, many argued.

“Too bad they didn’t define the terms of the actual bet, there was $11M at play,” Twitter user Observoor wrote. “I checked this afternoon and thought, ‘This doesn’t even define what ETF approval means…it’ll end in a big fight.’”

Technically, the SEC had approved rule changes allowing major investment firms like Grayscale, BlackRock, Fidelity, and VanEck to proceed with submitted and amended plans to offer spot Ethereum ETFs. But those specific funds have not yet been approved, a process that could take more than a week—and push past the May 31 Polymarket deadline.

With some calling the bet “rigged,” nearly 1,000 comments were posted to the event page.

“Let's be real: lots of people got overconfident that the SEC would deny and are now crying foul that the SEC did a U-turn and rugged them,” a Polymarket user wrote. “ETH ETF approved… [by] consensus of credible reporting.”

“The best resolution would be to make it a 50/50 split and clarify that the rules were not sufficient to select a clear winner,” another Polymarket user proposed.

On the other hand, the wording of the SEC decision was clear: “This order approves the proposals on an accelerated basis.”

“For all you who have no shares and are salty: bring the rules of the market and polymarket's resolution to ANY SAT/GMAT verbal professor and see what they say. Hint: everyone will agree with Polymarket because it's basic reading comprehension,” a Polymarket user wrote.

Polymarket users were given a chance to dispute the outcome of the bet, but by 8:18 p.m. ET, the yes vote had been solidified. For many, the simplest answer was always the best answer.

“I’m just an investor in Polymarket and general prediction market lover, so have zero impact here on final resolution,” Polymarket investor Nick Tomaino wrote on Twitter. “But in my opinion, for a prediction market platform to succeed long-term it’s important to resolve according to the spirit of the market. Otherwise, the masses won’t trust it.”

With the big bet settled, the broader crypto market simply carried on. The price of Ethereum barely budged upon news of the approvals, although it is up nearly 30 perccent for the week, spiking to $3,937 intraday and trading at $3,819 as of this writing.

Launched in 2020, Polymarket is a blockchain-based prediction market platform that allows users to stake tokens and earn on the outcome of current events like elections, sports, and current events. Earlier this month, Polymarket announced raising $70 million with funding participants, including Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin.

Edited by Ryan Ozawa.

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