Sportsbooks Eye Expansion of Academy Award Betting

Wagering interest won't be nearly as keen as was on the Super Bowl but with a viewing audience of some two billion people, sportsbooks aren't about to let the Academy Awards be handed out in Los Angeles on Feb. 22 without offering that enormous pool of potential gamblers some Oscar betting with their popcorn.

Some sportsbooks are offering action on more than two dozen categories, including such esoteric disciplines as makeup, documentary short and sound mixing, although most of the action-—not to mention most of the cash—-will be concentrated on the "Big Six" categories of Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress. The betting six-pack features a trio of highly contentious races, a pair of solid choices and the most overwhelming favorite in the wagering history of the Oscars. (Odds are a consensus based on a survey of a number of sportsbooks):

BEST FILM                                                             ODDS

Slumdog Millionaire                                                   1/4

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button                          5/1

Milk                                                                        12/1

Frost/Nixon                                                             20/1

The Reader                                                            25/1

Bets and Pieces: A winner at both the Golden Globe Awards and Screen Actors Guild (SAG) festivities, Slumdog Millionaire is the obvious favorite over The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, though the latter actually has more total Oscar nominations, 13 to 10. You could make a case for the other three…in a different year.

BEST DIRECTOR                                                    ODDS

Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire)                              1/4

David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)   9/2

Ron Howard (Frost/Nixon)                                        10/1

Gus Van Sant (Milk)                                                 12/1

Stephen Daldry (The Reader)                                   20/1

Bets and Pieces: If you believe Slumdog Millionaire will win Best Film then Boyle should be a near-lock for Best Director. The Film/Director exacta is no sure-thing, however; since 2000, directors of five best films also have won Academy Awards but three have not.

BEST ACTOR                                                        ODDS

Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)                                  Even

Sean Penn (Milk)                                                      6/5

Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon)                                      6/1

Brad Pitt (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)        15/1

Richard Jenkins (The Visitor)                                    40/1

Bets and Pieces: Looks like a two-man race between Rourke, the Golden Globe winner, and Penn, who grabbed the trophy at the SAG Awards. Rourke has come back from personal oblivion while Penn, a winner for his role in Mystic River in 2003, is highly respected. A victory by anyone else would be a huge upset.

BEST ACTRESS                                                     ODDS

Kate Winslet (The Reader)                                         4/5

Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married)                     3/1

Meryl Streep (Doubt)                                                 7/2

Angelina Jolie (Changeling)                                       15/1

Melissa Leo (Frozen River)                                        25/1

Bets and Pieces: With another great performance in Revolutionary Road, Winslet had the best year, something that may weigh on Oscar voters as they decide whether to give Winslet her first Oscar in six nominations. But the Golden Globe winner was upset by Streep (15 nominations and two Oscar wins) at the SAG Awards, and there's support for Hathaway, too, making this the most contentious of the "Big Six" races.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR                                    ODDS

Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)                                1/30

Philip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt)                               16/1

Josh Brolin (Milk)                                                     16/1

Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road)                      20/1

Robert Downey Jr. (Tropic Thunder)                         33/1

Bets and Pieces: Ledger, who died 13 months ago from an accidental drug overdose, could be the shortest priced acting winner in Academy Award betting history. The record is held by Julia Roberts, who scored at odds of 1/25 for her role as Erin Brockovich in 2000. Ledger was listed at incredible 1/66 at one sportsbook so it's difficult to picture him getting beat.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS                                  ODDS

Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona)                       2/3

Viola Davis (Doubt)                                                      3/1

Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler)                                       4/1

Taraji Henson (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)   10/1

Amy Adams (Doubt)                                                   12/1

Bets and Pieces: Cruz is popular and turned in a strong performance but this category has seen its share of upsets over the years so a shocker is possible. Davis, Tomei and Henson all merit consideration. Adams is for longshot players.

Like the Super Bowl, many sportsbooks also have a variety of Oscar betting propositions available. One is how many different winners will mention President Obama in their acceptances speeches:

      No Winners               7/4

      1 Winner                   7/2

      2 Winners                 4/1

      3 Winners                 5/1        

      4 Winners                 6/1

      5 Winners                 8/1

      6 or more Winners     4/1

So, pass the Bon-Bons and get ready for a night full of Academy Award betting.