Follow our live updates for the Oscars 2024.

On February 23, John Richards traveled more than 100 miles to place bets on the Oscars. He took a train from Washington, D.C., to Wilmington, Delaware, and then hopped in an Uber car to take him to a truck stop in New Jersey.

Once in that state, where betting is legal, he opened his DraftKings, FanDuel and bet365 apps and spent around $1,800 on a series of bets: Lily Gladstone for best actress, “The Creator” for best visual effects, “ Maestro” for best makeup. , “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” for best animated film, “Oppenheimer” for best sound and “War Is Over! Inspired by the music of John & Yoko” for best animated short.

Richards, a 40-year-old statistician for Red Carpet Rosters, a fantasy league site for movie awards, has been betting on the Oscars since 2016. Before his trip to the New Jersey truck stop, he had already bet $2,750 in this awards of the year. In addition to placing multiple bets on Mrs. Gladstone, he put $70 on Emma Stone as a hedge.

Richards is one of a growing number of Oscar players spread around the world. In the United States, where gambling is regulated at the state level, seven states allow Oscar bets: Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan and New Jersey. Sports betting, however, is allowed in 38 states and the District of Columbia. It became legal in 2018 after the Supreme Court struck down a 1992 law banning sports betting. Later that year, the first Oscar market opened in New Jersey.

Because the results of sports games are unknown before the matches, allowing bets on them is considered less risky than betting on prize shows, the results of which are decided in advance. PwC, an accounting firm formerly known as PricewaterhouseCoopers, tabulates votes for the Academy Awards. According to the Academy website, only two PwC partners know the results before they are announced during the Oscars ceremony. In general, employees who have access to confidential information are not supposed to use it for personal gain, a PwC spokeswoman said.

How much Americans bet on the Oscars is unknown because the main casino trade association, the American Gaming Association, does not collect data on Oscar betting, but estimates that Americans spent $10.26 billion at sports books. legal online sites, such as Draft Kings and BetMGM. .

BetMGM, which facilitates legal Oscar betting in four US states as well as Ontario and Puerto Rico, said that this year more than half of Oscar bets have been placed on best picture. Sixty-nine percent of these bets are on “Oppenheimer,” which opened at +800 in June 2023 (meaning a $100 bet would net you $800 plus your investment). “Oppenheimer”, now the favorite, is trading at -3,000 (which means you have to bet $3,000 to win $100).

Mr. Richards watches all the nominated films before placing his bets. “I like to trust my instincts,” he said. “I want to use mathematics to support my instinct.”

This is how he won $200 betting on “Moonlight”, a non-favorite for best picture in 2016. Similarly, he bet on “CODA”, nominated for best picture in 2022, when the odds were 25 to 1. That year, he won almost 10,000 Dollars. in general. It’s a completely different approach from the way he and others bet on sports, where statistics come first and hunches a distant second.

Oscar betting is not a new phenomenon, said Brett Abarbanel, executive director of the International Gaming Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “There are betting sites and markets in Europe that have been taking bets on the Academy Awards for decades,” he said.

BetUS, an offshore sportsbook based in Costa Rica, has been offering Oscar betting for 20 years. “Over the last two or three years, we’ve really seen it grow by leaps and bounds,” said Tim Williams, director of public relations at BetUS. “Over the course of the Academy Awards, we probably accepted bets from more than half of the countries in the world.”

Many Americans use offshore books, which are in a legal gray area in the United States. Its legality varies from state to state. “Some consider both sides of the activity to be illegal, while others only consider the service provider as the illegal actor,” Ms. Abarbanel said. Williams says the growing popularity of Oscar betting is due to the growth of legal betting markets in the United States, most of which do not allow Oscar betting because the results of the Oscars are decided in advance.

Betting on the arts is less a numbers game than sports betting: There are no stats like runs batted in and touchdowns to pore over, no injury reports or past games to set precedents, aside from precursor awards shows like the Golden Globes. Williams He said the odds are established by examining industry trends, critical praise and social media. Once set, “odds vary depending on how customers bet,” Williams said. “Our goal as a sportsbook is to accept approximately an equal proportion of bets on all options. And we do it by adjusting the probabilities.” This year, Christopher Nolan and Oppenheimer are a safe bet, Williams said.

But, according to Williams, Oscar betting is not lucrative for BetUS and the company often loses money on bets each year. “If we were in the retail business, I think you’d call it a loss leader,” Williams said.

The odds can change quickly. Chris Steckman, a legal consultant for a fashion company who lives in West Hollywood, California, and is betting on the Oscars, said Fantasia Barrino of “The Color Purple” was the favorite for best actress in September in Bovada, an offshore sports movie. book, but Ms. Barrino was not nominated. The current favorite is Lily Gladstone.

Steckman, 33, said he has never had a losing year betting on the Oscars. He earns between $2,500 and $4,000 every year. This year he has bet about $1,500.

“I love betting on the Oscars because it forces me to watch movies I wouldn’t otherwise watch,” Steckman said. For advice, he also follows Gold Derby, an Oscar predictions website that allows users to vote, a subreddit called OscarRace and a podcast called “The Next Best Picture.” “It’s not a perfect science,” she said.

A cottage industry of Oscar tipsters and podcasts has emerged to offer advice. This includes “Lights Camera What is the action?”, a podcast hosted by Tony Coca-Cola (a stage name) and his friends. Tony Coca-Cola has supported the Academy Awards in Australia since 2005.

“It’s like taking the annual Oscars to the next level,” he said. Tony Coca-Cola and his friends didn’t take betting too seriously. “You bet on who you want to win, and that’s a sure way to lose money,” he said. “But the more we did it, the more we realized that bookmakers don’t really know what they’re doing in these entertainment markets.” He and his friends try to beat the house by reading Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, reviewing Gold Derby, and analyzing experts.

For advice, Mr. Richards, the statistician, turns to awards like SAGS and Ben Zauzmerauthor of “Oscarmetrics”, who created a mathematical model for predicting the Oscars.

“I don’t support gambling,” Zauzmer said. “I don’t bet on the Oscars.” But the Oscar betting markets are a factor in his prediction model. “Betting markets serve as the wisdom of crowds, and study after study has shown that in many arenas, not just the Oscars, the wisdom of crowds tends to have some predictive power,” he said.

What does the Oscar betting industry think? Gabriel Rossman, a sociology professor at UCLA, thinks he’s not enthusiastic. (The academy declined to comment.) Dr. Rossman said the film industry lobbied to prevent another betting market from existing in 2010: the Hollywood Stock Exchange, a predictions website where people voted on the value of movies and celebrities. After industry rejection, it continued as a virtual game with no money involved.

Still, Dr. Rossman says the bets could be positive for the Oscars. “The Oscars have been in such a decline in public interest that anything that brings attention to the Oscars will be good for them,” he said.

Since legal Oscar betting is limited, bettors who want to wager tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars turn to illegal offshore prediction books and markets.

A man who goes by the name of the game. a naked egg, who asked to remain anonymous to separate his personal life from his gambling life, said he bets between $100,000 and $150,000 on the Oscars — money spread across 30 sportsbooks and some prediction markets. He recently left his job to become a full-time player.

In 2021 he won $28,000 betting on the Oscars. “Every year I try to bet on all categories, even the three short film categories, which are sometimes my favorites to bet on, since most people don’t know anything about those films,” he said. He says it’s wiser to avoid watching nominated films so that personal biases don’t creep into betting decisions, but he doesn’t follow his own advice. “I’m a movie buff,” he said. “I just do my best to try to separate my feelings.”

Not all Oscar bettors take the markets so seriously. Some place small bets to enhance their enjoyment of the show.

“Award shows can be slow, but when there’s money on the line, I invest a lot more,” said Matt Pondiscio, a 26-year-old self-described “art kid” who lives in New Jersey and bets from 5 dollars. at $10 per category.

Pondiscio, a former film student, got into Oscar betting on DraftKings when his fraternity brothers, who bet on NFL games, told him in 2018 that Oscar betting was available. Pondiscio has yet to make any money betting on the Oscars: He has bet about $500 over the years and has gotten about $300 back.