Will Gambling Help Oscars Rebound From Record Low Ratings?

New Jersey has given its sportsbooks the green light to take legal bets on the Oscars — and it might be just what the awards show needs.
academy awards trophies

It’s Super Bowl week, but New Jersey sportsbooks also have their eyes set on the Oscars.

This week, several Garden State books announced that they are taking action on the Oscars, to be held on live TV on Feb. 24. The likes of FanDuel, DraftKings, and PointsBet made the first moves, with others expected to follow suit. The sportsbook industry is not permitting high-stakes action on an awards show, with bets on PointsBet, for example, capped at $1,000.

Among the categories already available for wagering are ones you would expect: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress. The other categories, such as top score, editing, screenplay, and so on, are also expected to be in the mix for the betting public.

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement gave the books the green light this week for the Academy Awards after it completed a review of potential betting integrity issues.

Legal betting on the Oscars overdue?

Betting on the Oscars through office pools is nothing new, and offshore sports betting platforms have long taken action on the show. When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1992 federal sports betting prohibition back in May 2018, there instantly was some buzz about betting on the yearly accolades for motion pictures.

There is a latent market for such betting, so it was wise for New Jersey regulators to make the rule change. It’s not very surprising that the first legal Oscars bets in the U.S. are set to occur in New Jersey, which is on the cutting edge of the emergent sports betting industry. The Garden State is also keen on doing whatever it can to squash the black market, so permitting the licensed books to offer the action is a crucial step in making the white market as competitive as possible.

Additionally, betting on the Oscars is already regulated in the UK, where some of New Jersey sportsbooks also do business. It was just a matter of time before New Jersey gave it a try.

Yes, you’re right, Eva. Just like with a sports game, the theory backing the proliferation of sports betting across the country is that fans are more engaged with money on the line, even if it’s a small sum and winning or losing doesn’t have a major impact on your personal finances. That’s why the sports leagues have come to embrace sports betting, with a plethora of franchise- and league-level partnerships forged in 2018.

It’s an exciting time for the awards show and the New Jersey sports betting industry, but the public reaction to the announcement of Oscars betting wasn’t quite as convincing as a tweet from DraftKings made it out to be.

Time will tell how successful the offering is. New Jersey regulators have so far approved the betting for just this year.

The Oscars needed this

There hasn’t been a public reaction from the Academy, but it’s safe to say the extra press is great news for the long-running awards show. In 2018, the Oscars had an abysmal performance. The show reportedly averaged roughly 26.6 mm viewers, which was a 19% decline from 2017. It was also a remarkable 39% drop from the show’s 2014 peak, per Nielsen figures.

All the blame shouldn’t be on the Oscars, as awards shows in general have seen better days. Legal gambling might turn the tide and bring wagering to other top awards shows.

Betting could also help the Oscars combat a feeling among some viewers that it’s too long.

The 2018 ratings prompted the Academy to consider significant changes, but embracing betting was not among them. It could be in the future, depending on how much the new offering takes off in New Jersey and if it is adopted in other sports betting states. FanDuel sure hopes that the betting in New Jersey captures the Academy’s attention.

“Americans can finally bet legally on the Oscars,” the sportsbook said in a statement. “Residents of New Jersey will become the focus of ‘Tinseltown’ as they now have the opportunity to wager on the 2019 Academy Awards on the FanDuel Sportsbook. Best Director nominee Spike Lee will compete alongside his beloved New York Knicks on the FanDuel Sportsbook app.”

Nevada sportsbooks have sought to offer action on the Oscars, but the Nevada Gaming Control Board has never approved it. Again, if Oscar betting becomes popular in New Jersey, Nevada could soon change its tune. Nevada sportsbooks are coming off a record 2018, but the state still needs to evolve to stay ahead of the curve as the activity spreads across the nation.

Though the Silver State has never allowed bets on the show, the sportsbook at Wynn Las Vegas was known for putting out hypothetical odds. According to Johnny Avello, formerly with Wynn and now with DraftKings in New Jersey, betting on the show is actually in demand.

Oscar-betting strategy?

First off, you might be hard-pressed to find any +EV bets on the Oscars, especially if you are just a casual viewer of the awards show. With that said, past results might help guide you on your decisions. We’ll let you take a look at the lines and decide what’s best for your own wallet, but it’s worth noting that the heavy betting favorites typically perform well …



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