When it comes to movies during Oscar season, everyone’s a critic. And most people would be willing to bet they already know who’s going home with a statue on Sunday (Colin Firth, Christian Bale, Natalie Portman) and who isn’t (Jeff Bridges, Annette Bening, Jeremy Renner). But the bigger question is, how many of them would really be willing to bet — as in, make an actual cash wager — they are right?
A lot, it seems. According to some estimates, the Oscars are the most gambled upon non-sporting event in the U.S. after the presidential election.
And, as with most things in life, you have to pay to play. Ed Pownall, the entertainment and political trading director at Bodog.com, one of the largest online gaming sites, explains that there are two types of players when it comes to the Oscars: “Those looking to ‘buy’ money with very short prices (i.e., if an actor or film is 1/12 to win — you have to bet $12 to win $1, so some big players will bet $12K to win $1K thinking it is such a certainty). The other Oscar player is the genuine fan who will play with $5 to $10 and tend to back their favorite actor or film.”
If you fall into that second category, thanks a lot — you’re the reason the house always wins. Just because you loved, say, ‘Little Fockers,’ doesn’t mean you ought to risk your money on it. (Though it does mean you’re a candidate for a lobotomy.)
Pownall cautions that bettors must, “Bear in mind that their view is not what counts. It’s the view of the Academy, who are mostly actors themselves; hence the abundance of films and roles with a heavy accent on traditional acting. And characters that ‘win over adversity’ always tend to come through. Betting with a film because you liked it isn’t the smart way to bet on the Oscars!”
The odds for the outcome of any event are generally in constant flux, but since few people are expecting major surprises on Sunday, at this point the numbers are fairly static, and they echo the predictions of the general public. When it comes to Best Supporting Actor, for example, the latest stats show that Christian Bale is favored to win 1/7, with Geoffrey Rush a distant second at 4/1. At 80/1, Jeremy Renner might as well stay home. As for the other major categories, the odds overwhelmingly favor Natalie Portman for Best Actress at 1/12 and Colin Firth for Best Actor at 1/33. For Best Picture, ‘The King’s Speech’ leads the pack at 2/9.
What do the actual numbers mean? Essentially, the more money you have to play to make a profit, the higher the odds that that person will win. So, whereas you would have to bet $7 to make $1 on a Christian Bale win, you stand to make $4 for every $1 you bet on Geoffrey Rush if he should win. Conversely, if Jeremy Renner should surprise everyone and pull out a win for ‘The Town,’ those who bet on him would win $80 for every $1 invested. Too bad that’s not likely to happen. Just as in a horse race, the safe choice is the least lucrative.
(Stats via Bodog.com.)
While the gambling odds may not be surprising, the audience for online Oscar betting is. Gambling has traditionally been a male dominated activity, but the convenience (and privacy) of online gambling combined with the changing nature of what you can bet on has shifted the demographic. Pownall says, “We see a much higher volume of female bettors on things like the Oscars for sure. And the betting is from a significantly younger audience than, say, the Kentucky Derby, which is a more traditional betting event.”
He also points out that betting on things like reality show outcomes is becoming increasingly popular, especially among the younger female demographic. “‘American Idol’ finalist betting would rival the amount bet on, say, Best Actor at the Oscars, but the Oscars still win out because there is more than one prize,” he says.
At this time, most online gambling outlets, including Bodog, do not take bets on who will be nominated for an Academy Award, only who will win. If they did, it would likely prove to be a much riskier undertaking — for the bettor, not the house, which would stand to win much more, with highly uncertain odds and more horses, if you will, to bet on. But Bodog has introduced several additional pools for this year’s Oscars, including “How many of the Big 3 award-winners (Director, Actor, Actress) will visibly cry when receiving their award?” The odds currently favor none.
So, what’s the takeaway from all this? Well, betting on Colin Firth is a sure thing with a small payoff unless you have a bunch of cash lying around. But then again, if you’re inclined to participate in online gambling in the first place, there’s a good chance the only thing you have lying around is a worn-out copy of ‘Casino’ and a half-empty bottle of whiskey.
(This article originally appeared on PopEater.com)