NJ Sportsbooks Looking For Big Oscars Night

Written By Marco Cerino on February 23, 2019

As the entertainment world turns its eyes to Hollywood for the Academy Awards, the gambling world turns to the other coast, as New Jersey sportsbooks offer a variety of bets on Oscar night.

In short time, casinos and gaming companies added prices on various categories to their sports betting entities. Players can wager on who takes the golden statues on Sunday night at retail locations and various online books.

Exciting time for Avello

DraftKings Sportsbook Director Johnny Avello has handicapped the Oscars for years but that was “entertainment purposes only”. Nevada never allowed the Academy Awards to take action for Wynn and other books. In the first year of legal betting in New Jersey, he credits the state for giving books this opportunity.

“We have a team in New Jersey that works behind the scenes and no one ever sees them,” the Vegas-based oddsmaker said. “Those guys are always looking to do new content. This is something they asked for and they got the permission to do this relatively quick.”

That team has been part of the phenomenal debut of sports betting in the Garden State, which has seen over a billion dollars bet since books opened in June. Much of that came from team sports and one-on-one betting matchups.

For pricing the Oscars, Avello went with another model: horse racing. Favorites in the Academy Awards are getting short odds and players have bet them down. Since final rankings aren’t released after the awards, no multi-nominee exactas or trifectas can be made. No book is allowing players to create multi-leg parlays eithers.

The trick, as we saw with the Super Bowl, is finding the prices that draw in bettors and keeping the books out of precarious positions. Wager limits have been set and the lack of multi-bet options help limit risk. Like other contests, people have been playing their favorites.

FanDuel reported Wednesday they have seen the most action on Lady Gaga (+1600) for Best Actress and Bradley Cooper (+2300) for Best Actor. Makes sense for NJ, as Gaga is from NYC and Cooper grew up in the Philly area. However, their handle leader was Best Picture, which Roma (-210), the pick across the market, taking the most public action.

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A new opportunity for non-sports bettors

Dr. Lia Nower serves as the Director of Gambling Studies at Rutgers University. She has seen the betting market shift from land-based casinos to more online options, which favors a younger audience who rely more on technology. “The goal of the industry is how do we attract new people so that gambling continues to grow,” she said. “Allowing betting on interests that are apart from sports and traditional gambling activities is another way to do that.”

Sunday gives a really unique opportunity for the books to take action in what could be a lull between two major events, the Super Bowl and March Madness. It’s also focused on an event that could probably use more attention.

Ratings for the Oscars have plummeted over the years. The Academy shifted this crown jewel of awards season to the end of February sweeps to get more money out their carrier ABC. For the casual fan, the night takes forever and can get really boring. A Kanye run-in might even be welcome. It’s also an event that draws more women, between the red carpet fashion, the speeches, and the inherently social aspect. Yeah, this is Hollywood’s Super Bowl, minus the tailgating and athletic prowess (we still love you J-Law!).

For the state, this is a trial run to allow Oscars wagering. No other state has this on the books. If this works, Avello thinks this could help his company continue expansion, adding other products and other states in which to operate. “Other states open up, they’re going to look for providers that not only has a great product and great team, but is willing to go out and bring new content to the market. That’s what we do and that’s what we’ve been doing.”

The 91st Annual Academy Awards will air Sunday night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on ABC. Once the show starts, new bets will not be taken.

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