Oscars Betting Dominated by Odds-On Favorites



With a worldwide television audience of two billion viewers, Hollywood will announce its Oscar winners, March 2, but if the prevailing odds are to be trusted, Academy Award betting should pack about as much suspense and drama as an animated Disney movie.

In fact, the six-pack of Oscar biggies—Best Picture, Best Director, Best Lead Actor, Best Lead Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress--the half-dozen cinematic categories that always generate the most wagering action, all have crushing odds-on favorites. Oh sure, many sportsbooks also have posted odds and are accepting Academy Award betting on dozens of other categories but it’s these big six where both bet makers and bet takers will decide who gets a boffo review and who winds up in a red ink puddle of flop sweat.  

Let’s look at the major categories:

Best Picture: Critics insist this is a three-way race among “12 Years a Slave,” ”American Hustle” and “Gravity” but The Greek has a different opinion, installing “12 Years a Slave” as an overwhelming 1/6 consensus favorite. “Gravity,” which tied “American Hustle” with 10 Academy Award nominations, one more than “12 Years a Slave,” and has earned $670 million at the box office, is offered at odds of 13/4 while “American Hustle” is quoted at 15/2. “Dallas Buyer’s Club” is a 16/1 proposition to take home the hardware for Best Picture while “The Wolf of Wall Street” checks in at 50/1. There are four other nominated films, none at odds of less than 150/1.

Best Director: Oscars betting fans know they have a great predictor in this category, the Directors Guild Award. Since the DGA first was presented in 1948, only seven DGA winners have failed to capture the Academy Award for Best Director. That’s a record of 58-7, a success rate of 86.5 percent. But operators of sportsbooks know that, too, so if you think “Gravity” director and 2014 DGA winner Alfonso Cuaron is a sure thing, you’ll have to accept odds of anywhere from a high of 1/12 to ridiculously low odds of 1/100. Betting alternatives include Steve McQueen (no, not that Steve McQueen) at odds of 8/1 for “12 Years a Slave,” and David O. Russell, 25/1, for his direction of “American Hustle.”

Best Actor: Past performances, including 2014 Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards, plus a critically acclaimed stint on the HBO thriller “True Detective,” point to first time nominee Matthew McConaughey—not just another pretty face--winning the statue at odds of 1/6 for his turn in “Dallas Buyers Club.” Chiwetel Ejiofer (“12 Years a Slave”) and Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Wolf of Wall Street”) are co-second choices at odds of 5/1.

Best Actress: Even the critics, who see the Best Picture and Best Director categories as anything but settled, agree that Cate Blanchett is a slam-dunk for her role in “Blue Jasmine.” Looking like the surest thing since Julia Roberts took home the award at odds of 1/25 for her performance in “Erin Brockovich” in 2000, Blanchett is an even shorter 1/33 to emerge with the Best Actress Oscar. Amy Adams (“American Hustle”) and Sandra Bullock (“Gravity”), each at odds of 14/1, offer feeble opposition.

Best Supporting Actor: Academy voters are suckers for actors who make physical sacrifices, something Jared Leto did when he lost 35 pounds to play a transgender AIDS patient in “Dallas Buyers Club.” There’s no dispute from The Greek where Leto is a 1/12 favorite. Michael Fassbender (“12 Years a Slave”), 10/1, and Barkhad Abdi (“Captain Phillips”), 2/27, offer a glimmer of hope for longshot players.

Best Supporting Actress: Although Lupito Nyongo (“12 Years a Slave”) is a solid 1/2 favorite, it wouldn’t be an enormous surprise if Jennifer Lawrence (“American Hustle”), the highly contentious 6/5 second choice, scored a mild upset. Both ladies were terrific but Lawrence won a Best Actress Oscar last year for “Silver Linings Playbook,” making it more likely voters will decide to spread the wealth and give the statue to Nyongo.

Are the Oscar winners really that predictable? Come March 2, after all the envelopes are opened, Academy Award betting fans will have that answer.

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