Betting markets predict Oscar gold

Key takeaways

  • Online betting markets are hotspots for Hollywood fans to place bets on the Academy Awards.
  • Only four states — New Jersey, Michigan, Colorado, and Indiana — allow betting on entertainment.
  • Betting markets frontrunners include Power of the Dog, director Jane Campion, and actor Will Smith.

The 94th Annual Academy Awards are Sunday, March 27, and everyone’s rooting for their favorite actors and actresses, directors, and big-ticket movies to take home a little gold man named Oscar. There’s plenty of casual dinner-table and group-chat speculation about who’ll get the big awards and who’ll go home empty-handed. But it’s in online betting markets where you’ll find the real stakes — at least, as real as they get, if you’re not a nominee. 

Online betting has long exceeded its initial purpose as a way for sports fans to make cash off of games. There are now betting pools for everything from the exact date of the apocalypse to celebrity deaths. In fact, online betting is so prolific, pundits even use it to help predict political elections. For instance, PredictIt, a New Zealand-based online prediction market, offers exchanges on political and financial events and is considered a fairly accurate indicator of public opinion on U.S. presidential elections.

The Oscars don’t have quite as much of a geopolitical impact as an election, but the betting sites are still a good indicator of what to expect at the actual ceremony. Of course, there have been some upsets. For instance, in 2021, DraftKings had the late Chadwick Boseman as a heavy favorite to win a posthumous Best Actor award for his performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Boseman’s win was listed at odds of -1667, which meant there was a 94.3% chance of him winning (and a more meager payout for high bidders who placed their bets on him). Instead, Anthony Hopkins won at +600 odds, which netted anyone who placed, say, $1000 on him a nice $8000 payout. 

Do note that while it is legal in many states to bet online on sports events, only four states permit online betting on entertainment events like the Academy Awards. If you live in New Jersey, Michigan, Colorado, or Indiana, you have a chance to win a nice chunk of change — though Best Picture is usually a tough one for dark horses, the Director, Actor, and Actress categories have historically had a few upsets, including last year’s aforementioned Best Actor win. 

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If you don’t live in one of those states, you can’t participate in online Oscar betting. But the markets are still useful for folks participating in unofficial office pools or curious about their favorites’ winning odds. A quick refresher on betting odds: favorites are indicated by a (-) sign and a number, which means you’ll have to risk that number in monetary value to win $100. Underdogs are indicated with a (+) in front of a number, which means you would win that amount in monetary value for every $100 bet. 

Here’s what the odds are saying: The frontrunners

Best Picture: Power of the Dog

DraftKings says that Netflix’s Power of the Dog is currently favored to win Best Picture at -280 odds, or about a 74% chance. Considering the Jane Campion-directed western has thus far taken home the Golden Globe for Best Drama, along with a slew of BAFTA and Critic’s Choice awards, it seems like a pretty good, if not totally sure, bet. 

Best Director: Jane Campion, Power of the Dog

The top film often, but not always, tracks with its director, and New Zealand’s Campion, who has already picked up a number of accolades including Best Director at the Critics Choice Awards, is heavily favored at a whopping -3,500 odds, or a 97% chance of winning. 

Best Actor: Will Smith, King Richard

Smith’s portrayal of Venus and Serena Williams’s father and manager, Richard Williams, has him favored at -800 to win Best Actor, or around an 89% chance of winning. He previously won the trifecta of a Golden Globe, SAG award, and BAFTA award for the role, which usually (but not always!) precedes an Oscar win.

Best Actress: Jessica Chastain, The Eyes of Tammy Faye

This is a much tighter category, but DraftKings has Chastain at -150 to win the Oscar for her starring role as American evangelist Tammy Faye Bakker. That’s only about a 60% shot, so the underdogs shouldn’t be discounted — not that one should ever discount the underdogs! 

Here’s what the odds are saying: The dark horses  

Best Picture

Behind Power of the Dog is CODA, a film about a young singer who is the only hearing member of a deaf family, which DraftKings has at +400, and Kenneth Branaugh’s semi-autobiographical Belfast, which at +650 is the only other film currently tracking at 10 to 1 odds.  

King Richard and West Side Story are tied at +1600, with Dune behind them at +2800. Don’t Look Up and Licorice Pizza are also tied at +3500. Japanese road film Drive My Car trails at +5000. And for bettors who really love an underdog, Nightmare Alley is least likely to win at +8000  

Best Director

Campion probably has this one in the bag, but if she doesn’t: Belfast’s Kenneth Branagh is behind her at +1,400, followed by a tie between Steven Spielberg for West Side Story and Paul Thomas Anderson for Licorice Pizza at +2,000. Ryusuke Hamaguchi, who directed Drive My Car, has the underdog’s spot at +2,500. 

Best Actor

Behind Smith is Power of the Dog’s Benedict Cumberbatch, at a not-too-tight-but-still-tight +450, which translates to an 18% chance of winning. tick, tick, tick…BOOM!’s Andrew Garfield is at a fairly distant +1,100, and Denzel Washington is at +2,500 for his starring role in The Tragedy of Macbeth. The biggest underdog is Javier Bardem, who trails at +4,000 for his role as Desi Arnaz in Being the Ricardos

Best Actress

Nicole Kidman’s role as Lucille Ball in Being the Ricardos has placed her fairly close behind Chastain, at odds of +250, or about a 29% chance of winning. The Lost Daughter’s Olivia Coleman and Spencer’s Kristen Stewart are tied at +500, with Penelope Cruz trailing at +1,600 for her role in Parallel Mothers. This is the most likely category for an upset. 

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