Sports betting in New Jersey has only been legal for about eight months, but the Garden State’s sportsbook operators have wasted no time in offering a large menu of options. That includes wagering on Sunday night’s Academy Awards, and the response has been pretty good within the major categories.
“Betting is way better than expected,” said Nick Bogdanovich, director of trading for William Hill US. “The publicity has been excellent. Lots of press.”
Granted, sportsbooks have to be a bit cautious in a market such as the Oscars, as there are some people – limited and as trustworthy as they may be – who already know the results. So the limits rightfully are much lower, with William Hill books setting a maximum bet at $500. In fact, the Best Director category was taken off the board at multiple New Jersey shops this afternoon, after a flood of wagers on long-shot Yorgos Lanthimos, who directed The Favourite.
That issue notwithstanding, bettors have spoken loudly in all the key categories over the past few weeks, heading into tonight’s 8 p.m. ET broadcast.
“We booked the main six categories,” Bogdanovich said, alluding to Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress and Best Director. “Best Movie is by far the most popular. Green Book and Lady Gaga (as Best Actress) have the most tickets written, and Green Book and Rami Malek (Best Actor) have the most dollars bet.”
At William Hill, Green Book was getting 19 percent of tickets and 35 percent of money for Best Picture heading into the weekend and was at +400. This afternoon, that movie tightened even more, to the +200 second choice behind Roma, which was a solid -350 favorite Friday but is now at -180.
Lady Gaga, up for top honors for her role in A Star is Born, was the 17/2 third choice Friday, though she was drawing the most tickets at 58 percent. She remains the third choice today, but has slipped to 12/1, behind massive favorite Glenn Close (-800) and Olivia Colman (+500).
DraftKings Sportsbook director Johnny Avello said bettors have been all over A Star is Born in multiple ways.
“For Best Picture, ‘A Star is Born,’ ‘Black Panther’ and ‘Vice’ have all taken a significant amount of money,” Avello said, noting DraftKings’ limits were $1,000 per wager. “Everybody likes A Star is Born and Black Panther, and why not? They’re underdogs, bettors are taking a shot, and I don’t blame them.”
Both movies were running 10/1 this afternoon, co-third choices along with The Favourite and Bohemian Rhapsody. Meanwhile, Roma remained the favorite, but its stock was declining.
“Roma is a movie that got a lot of hype, but from the public’s viewpoint, they probably rate it the worst,” Avello said. “It was -400, now it’s down to -182, so it’s a movie they haven’t wagered on. It’s still the favorite, but at a much shorter price.”
Much like at WillHill books in New Jersey, Green Book was closing the gap on Roma, moving to the +225 second choice.
Ramek, the star of Bohemian Rhapsody as he portrayed iconic Queen singer Freddie Mercury, was getting 59 percent of the dollars at William Hill books heading into this weekend and was a solid -500 chalk for Best Actor. Those odds since bolted to -900 by this afternoon. At DraftKings, Ramek is the hefty -835 favorite, but Avello again pointed to action on A Star is Born, for both Best Actor and Best Actress.
“There’s a little bit for Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga,” he said. “People just kind of like A Star is Born. It’s a movie a lot of people related to, and who doesn’t want to see Lady Gaga up on stage?”
Anyone who bet on Lady Gaga at PointsBet Sportsbook certainly wants to see that happen, as the latest New Jersey sports betting operator had a big promotional code offering for new subscribers who wager on the singer/actress.
“Best Actress, Best Picture and Best Director are seeing the most action, Best Actress because we are offering 1,000/1 odds on $1 bets for new customers if Lady Gaga wins,” PointsBet vice president Ron Shell said. “Place a bet on Lady Gaga at +1000, and if she wins, you will win $11, and we will pay you $989 in bonus bets to turn it into a $1,000 win.
“We also have hundreds of bets on our Academy Awards boosters and ‘Name A Bet’ markets, many revolving around parlays with Roma. People love ‘Roma,’ and they love complete outsiders.”
As for those potential dark horses/upsets tonight in Hollywood, Avello pointed to the Best Picture category.
“I think there’s a possibility for an upset. But which movie? I don’t know,” he said. “I’d pick Green Book, but it’s not like that’s 17/1 or 20/1. It’s the second choice. But if it’s not gonna be Roma for Best Picture, then it could be anything. Well, anything except Vice. I don’t think Vice (50/1) can get there.”
Bogdanovich was pleasantly surprised by action on the Oscars. “I'm shocked at how many tickets have been written. All in all, we’re very pleased for the first year out,” he said. And Avello is a huge movie buff who for years had “entertainment purposes only” odds on the Oscars while heading up the Wynn Las Vegas sportsbook. So he’s over the moon to have such offerings in his new role at DraftKings.
“It’s really exciting to do this and to see the wagers on this,” Avello said. “New Jersey is the first state to do it, and I’m sure others will be on board. We’ll see how it goes in New Jersey. If everything goes well, I don’t see why it wouldn’t be open in Nevada next year.”
Patrick Everson is a Las Vegas-based senior writer for Covers. Follow him on Twitter: @Covers_Vegas.