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Oscars 2014: Think you can predict the Academy Awards? Wanna bet?

Professional oddsmakers and Hollywood pundits draw the line among the top contenders.

March 01, 2014|By Glenn Whipp
  • Jared Leto, left, and Matthew McConaughey of "Dallas Buyers Club" are front-runners in their respective Oscar categories.
Jared Leto, left, and Matthew McConaughey of "Dallas Buyers Club"… (Anne Marie Fox, Focus Features )

Will Pink make an acrobatic entrance at the Oscars on Sunday night? Is Pharrell Williams going to mothball that Vivienne Westwood Mountain hat before he sings "Happy"? And how many U.S. viewers will be watching it all — more or less than 41 million?

If you feel a great degree of certainty about any of these topics — and want to risk some cash on your answers — you can legally place a bet at a number of online gambling sites that view the Oscars as the Super Bowl of entertainment events.

"It's by far the biggest non-sports occasion for us," says Kevin Bradley, sports book manager for Bovada, a sports betting site licensed in Canada. Bradley puts his site's Oscar wagering in the "healthy" six-figure range, adding that a lot of money comes from Hollywood.

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Meanwhile, in Las Vegas, where it isn't legal to gamble on entertainment events that have known outcomes, the Oscars are still an attractive sideshow with sportsbooks posting odds and hosting red-carpet parties for the telecast.

"It's a big deal for us," Wynn/Encore sportsbook director Johnny Avello says. "We roll out the red carpet. And, yeah, there are a lot of pools floating around. Nothing sponsored, of course. But there's a definite — how should I put it? — 'motivated' interest in the outcomes."

How do the odds compare among Bovada, Vegas and the 30 Oscar pundits gathered on awards site Gold Derby for the top five categories? Let's have a look:


Bovada: "12 Years a Slave," 1-5; "Gravity," 4-1; "American Hustle," 12-1

Wynn Las Vegas: "12 Years a Slave," 2-5; "American Hustle," 4-1; "Gravity" 5-1

Gold Derby: "12 Years a Slave," 8-15; "Gravity," 14-5; "American Hustle," 50-1

"12 Years a Slave" opened the season as the prohibitive favorite and has never relinquished the lead in the tight best picture race. The biggest category mover, Bovada's Bradley says, has been "Dallas Buyers Club," which has seen its line drop from 100-1 to 20-1 thanks to an influx of bettors enticed by the initial long odds. Gold Derby proprietor Tom O'Neil says the gambling odds more closely reflect the reality of the close, three-way race. "The three movies should be within striking distance," he says.

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Bovada: Matthew McConaughey, 1-5; Leonardo DiCaprio, 5-1; Chiwetel Ejiofor, 7-1

Wynn Las Vegas: McConaughey, 1-2; Ejiofor, 4-1; DiCaprio, 5-1

Gold Derby: McConaughey, 1-10; DiCaprio, 20-1; Ejiofor, 33-1

O'Neil, who's picking DiCaprio, again says the Vegas odds are more in line with the contest's tightness. "McConaughey and DiCaprio have never directly competed," he says. "We don't know what might happen." Bradley took a lot of early money on McConaughey, adding the category has been in flux from the beginning, with Robert Redford opening as a 3-1 favorite for "All Is Lost," only to not be nominated.

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Bovada: Cate Blanchett, 1-30; Amy Adams, 12-1; Sandra Bullock, 15-1

Wynn Las Vegas: Blanchett, 1-5; Bullock, 10-1; Adams, 18-1

Gold Derby: Blanchett, 1-10; Adams, 33-1; Bullock, 50-1

"There's no debate here," Avello says. "It's always been Blanchett." Bradley says he has taken a fair amount on Bullock, noting that some casual bettors like to go with "popular names," likening it to betting on the Denver Broncos because they recognize Peyton Manning as the quarterback.

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Bovada: Jared Leto, 1-10; Barkhad Abdi, 10-1; Michael Fassbender, 10-1

Wynn Las Vegas: Leto, 1-4; Fassbender, 5-1; Abdi, 15-1

Gold Derby: Leto, 1-10; Fassbender, 33-1; Abdi, 50-1

Bradley says this category has "seen the least action," while O'Neil touts Abdi of "Captain Phillips," noting the supporting races are "where upsets occur."

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Bovada: Lupita Nyong'o, 4-7; Jennifer Lawrence, 5-4

Wynn Las Vegas: Nyong'o, 4-5; Lawrence, 8-5

Gold Derby: Nyong'o, 1-5; Lawrence, 15-2

At Gold Derby, 26 of the 30 pundits pick "12 Years a Slave" actress Nyong'o. Avello originally had Lawrence as the favorite but went with Nyong'o once she began winning many of the precursor awards. "These races are all about momentum," he says.


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