Oscars Betting Is a Global Hit

The practice of sports betting on soccer and American football is nearly universal but because of the popularity and reach of the movie industry, Oscars betting may have an even wider appeal. Oh, there won't be anywhere near as much money bet on the 87th edition of the Academy Awards as the World Cup or Super Bowl, but with a television audience of two billion people, interest will be keen when the envelopes are opened at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, Feb. 26.

At a minimum, most sportsbooks are offering future book odds on at least six Oscar categories, Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. But many sportsbooks also have betting odds on several other categories, as well as bettingĀ options on a number of propositions.

Let's look at the major categories:

Best Picture: "Hugo" leads the pack with 11 nominations but "The Artist," which received 10 nominations, is the overwhelming 1/6 favorite to prevail. Were "The Artist" to win, and that's certainly the way most "experts" see this playing out, it would be the first silent film winner for Best Picture since "Wings" won at the very first Academy Awards in 1927-28.

At odds of 6/1, "The Descendants" is given the best chance up springing an upset over "The Artist." The films each received a Best Picture award at the Golden Globes, the former winning in the Best Drama category, the latter as Best Musical or Comedy.

"Hugo" is held at odds of 12/1 while "The Help," which will appeal to voters that like it when the Academy tackles social issues, is a possibility at odds of 16/1. "War Horse," 20/1, "Midnight in Paris," 33/1, "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," 50/1, "Moneyball," 50/1, and "The Tree of Life," 66/1, are for longshot players.

Best Director: Since 1948, the winner of the Directors Guild of America Award also has won the Oscar every year but six, making Michael Hazanavicius, who took home the DGA hardware this year, like his film, "The Artist," a very strong 1/6 favorite.

Martin Scorsese ("Hugo") is the 9/2 second choice. Scorsese already owns an Oscar for "The Departed," which he won on his seventh nomination in 2006. Alexander Payne ("The Descendants"), 12/1, Terrance Malik ("The Tree of Life"), 33/1, and Woody Allen ("Midnight in Paris"), 33/1, complete the field.

Best Actor: George Clooney ("The Descendants"), who has been called "America's Last Movie Star," is a 1/2 favorite to beat Jean DuJardin ("The Artist"), 7/4 in another showdown of Golden Globe winners. Clooney, who is known for his philanthropy, is very popular with voters. It would be an upset if Clooney's close friend, Brad Pitt ("Moneyball"), 16/1, won and a complete surprise if Gary Oldman ("Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"), 25/1, or Demian Bichir ("A Better Life"), 33/1, took home the Oscar.

Best Actress: This should be the evening's most hotly contested race (although, since vote totals aren't revealed we'll never know). Meryl Streep ("The Iron Lady") and Viola Davis ("The Help") each are offered at odds of 10/11. With 17 nominations, including two wins, Streep, who won this year's Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama, is the most nominated actress in history. Davis, who played a black maid who goes public with stories about her white southern employers, is a sturdy rival. Also in the mix is Michelle Williams, 12/1, who won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy in "My Week with Marilyn." Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs") and Rooney Mara "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo") each are offered at 33/1 but probably should be 100/1.

Best Supporting Actor: Okay bridge-jumpers, (that's what they call a gambler who bets a lot of money on a very short favorite) here's your certified cinch, the bet-out special for gamblers who believe that a quick 5 percent return on their money is a risk worth taking. Christopher Plummer ("Beginners") is 1/20 to win his first Oscar in his 60-year career. If he wins, the 82-year-old Plummer would become the oldest acting recipient ever, replacing Jessica Tandy, who currently holds the record for her Best Actress win in "Driving Miss Daisy" at age 80. To Academy voters, acknowledging Plummer's long career with an Oscar is nothing short of a feel-good moment.

Kenneth Branagh ("My Week with Marilyn"), 9/1, Max von Sydow ("Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close"), 16/1, Nick Nolte ("Warrior"), 33/1, and Jonah Hill ("Moneyball"), 50/1, will be applauding Plummer's win.

Best Supporting Actress: How about a supporting actor/actress bridge-jumpers parlay? Like Plummer, Octavia Spencer ("The Help") won this year's Golden Globe and is 1/20 to sleep with Oscar Feb. 26. Berenice Bejo ("The Artist"), 9/1, Jessica Chastain ("The Help"), 20/1, Janet McTeer ("Albert Nobbs"), 33/1, and Melissa McCarthy ("Bridesmaids"), 33/1, are the pretenders.

Many sportsbooks will carry odds on other categories and you can also expect a number of Oscar betting propositions, including whether or not there'll be a streaker, how long the telecast lasts and one or more prop involving popular host Billy Crystal.

Oscar betting is ready for its close-up.