Oscars Bettors in New Jersey Faced Rapidly Changing Odds

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New Jersey sportsbooks bet on Oscars contenders in two main categories that didn’t end up taking the coveted gong after all. The 92nd Academy Awards sprung a surprise by honoring ‘Parasite’ and its director Bong Joon-ho as Best Picture and Best Director respectively. At sportsbooks, 1917 and its director Sam Mendes were favorites to win. 

Oscars betting odds at DraftKings

DraftKings had Sam Mendes at -835 to win Best Director, and Bong Joon-ho at +450, with Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) in third place at +2000. The gap between the two had closed quickly by the evening of the Oscars, changing to -278 for Mendes and +175 for Joon-ho. 

Oddsmakers set odds of -125 for 1917 and +150 for Parasite, and didn’t have hopes for any of the other contenders in the Best Picture category, which accounted for nearly half of all the money wagered on the Academy Awards. At last year’s Oscars, Roma was the odds-on favorite to win Best Picture, but lost to Green Book. 

The World War I movie had scooped up awards at the Golden Globes and British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), and usually but not always, winners at these ceremonies go on to do well at the Oscars. Not the case this time, 1917 was bested by the South Korean thriller, which won in all the categories in which it was nominated.

Parasite was a shoo-in the Best Foreign Language Film category, winning the title at all major awards this year. It is one of only 11 films not made in English to be nominated in the Best Picture category at the Academy Awards, and the only one to take the top prize. The tragicomedy has a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. 

NJ sportsbooks were more accurate in predicting winners in the Best Actor and Best Actress categories. Joaquin Phoenix (Joker) and Renée Zellweger (Judy) swept their respective categories at all major awards. DraftKings’ odds for a Zellweger win was -2500 and -5000 for Phoenix; both won the second Oscar of their career this year. 

A weak Oscars handle for NJ sportsbooks in 2020

NJ’s sportsbooks recorded a handle of $380,424 on the Oscars and paid out $340,702, for a win percentage of 10.44%. They underperformed last year’s handle of $747,696 and win percentage of 24.4%. 

New Jersey became the only state last year to offer Oscars betting. Nevada doesn’t seem interested after their request to allow wagering on the most prestigious movie awards was declined by the Nevada Gaming Control Board in 2012. The state does offer betting on events that aren’t traditional sports, such as the World Series of Poker. 

This year, only New Jersey and Indiana gave bettors interested in non-sporting events an opportunity to try their luck at predicting Oscar winners, through DraftKings. In 2019, it was largely expected that the novelty of wagering on a non-sporting event would attract bettors. DraftKings took bets only on Best Picture, while BetStarsNJ set odds for five award categories, including Best Actor and Best Director. Will a weaker performance from 2019 dissuade sportsbooks from pursuing this niche when the Academy awards come around next year?