Though official figures haven’t been released, New Jersey’s experiment with allowing bets on the Academy Awards appears to have been a success.
The state was the first to allow Oscar betting in the U.S. and bookmakers said bettors embraced the opportunity.
“The Academy Awards was a roaring success,” William Hill sportsbook director Nick Bogdanovich told the Las Vegas Review Journal. “It brought people to the betting window, which is all you want. The average bet was like 20 bucks, but people couldn’t get enough of it and we won a few bucks, so it was a win-win.”
There were, however, some anomalies in the betting due to rumors that circulated on social media on who eventual winners would be. The biggest was a rumor that involved Yorgos Lanthimos, who directed best picture nominee The Favourite. Lanthimos opened as a 50-1 long shot, but the odds eventually dropped to six to one due to late betting, the Review Journal reported.
The betting was spurred by a rumor on social media that results had been leaked and Lanthimos would win the award—a rumor which was ultimately incorrect. The betting was so intense, some books in New Jersey and also on unlicensed offshore sites took the odds for Lanthimos off the board.
“It was all over Twitter that someone knew he’d won,” Bogdanovich told the newspaper. “In this day and age of social media, as soon as someone sends it out there, it becomes gospel. They were out there betting him with both hands. We kept getting ticket after ticket. The liability was adding up. Eventually we ended up taking it down in case the rumor was true.”
Eventually, Alfonso Cuarón, the heavy favorite, won best director for “Roma,” but some analysts noted that the rumor involving Lanthimos shows that regulated sportsbooks can spot and handle betting anomalies.
Bogdanovich said he also expects a Nevada book will win approval from the Nevada Gaming Control Board to allow betting on the 2020 Oscars.
“They’ve approved other things like the Heisman Trophy and Super Bowl MVP,” he told the Review Journal. “It’s very possible.”
In New Jersey, William Hill took wagers on the big six categories of best picture, best actor, best actress, best supporting actor, best supporting actress and best director.
Best picture generated the most bets with winner Green Book, closing at 2-1 odds, the paper reported.