Home Economy ‘Barbenheimer’ mania fuels US gambling on the Oscars

‘Barbenheimer’ mania fuels US gambling on the Oscars

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CILLIAN MURPHY, seen here in a scene from Oppenheimer, won best movie actor at the SAG Awards for his work in the film.

LOS ANGELES — After a summer face-off at the box office, the “Barbenheimer” battle is headed to online gambling sites in the United States.

New Jersey, Massachusetts, and five other states allow wagering on this Sunday’s Academy Awards, where Barbie and Oppenheimer will compete for best picture and other honors.

Gamblers can put their money on top prizes such as best picture, actor or actress, or take a chance on lower-profile categories such as best sound or animated short.

The popularity of Barbie and Oppenheimer will likely translate to record sums bet on the Oscars, said Bill Speros, senior betting analyst at Bookies.com, a website owned by Gambling.com Group. Legal wagering on the film industry’s highest honors started in New Jersey in 2019.

This year “is the first opportunity for people to bet on two films, and stars from those films, that have had real mass appeal,” Speros said. “You have two movies that everybody’s seen.”

Gambling has been on the rise in the United States since 2018 when the Supreme Court cleared the way for sports betting to expand nationwide. State officials have embraced it as a way to boost tax revenue and keep people from illegal wagering, despite the risks to gamblers of financial losses.

While exact figures are not disclosed, last month’s Super Bowl was expected to draw $23 billion in wagers, according to a survey released by the American Gaming Association.

Oscars betting is a small fraction of that — “you will get more money on a regular-season NBA game,” Speros said — but it gives casinos a chance to draw gamblers who have no interest in sporting events.

Wagers can be placed at casinos, but most are made online through apps such as DraftKings, BetMGM, and ESPN BET.

Johnny Avello, director of race and sports operations at DraftKings, said the company sees higher participation from women around the Oscars.

“They say ‘I don’t want to bet on football, but now you’re talking Academy Awards and now you’re in my wheelhouse’,” Avello said. “I believe that’s why we see higher engagement this time of year.”

In addition to New Jersey and Massachusetts, Oscars betting is allowed in Michigan, Indiana, Arizona, Kansas, and Louisiana. California, the home of the Academy Awards, does not allow wagering on the honors.

Several other states prohibit gambling on events with predetermined outcomes, such as the Oscars, because of the risk the results could leak out in advance.

The states that do allow Oscar bets believe the Academy Awards has tight controls to prevent disclosures before winners are revealed on stage at the televised ceremony in Hollywood, Speros said.

Wagering is possible in some or all of the 23 televised Oscar categories.

In Ontario, Canada, FanDuel is offering bets on which Barbie outfit actress Margot Robbie will wear, or whether someone will fall while accepting an award. Those types of wagers, unrelated to the winners, are not permitted in any US state.

The odds on Sunday’s outcomes have changed as various Hollywood organizations doled out their picks in recent weeks.

While Barbie won the box office battle with $1.4 billion in global ticket sales, Oppenheimer is the clear leader for the best picture trophy. The movie about the race to build the atomic bomb has grabbed top prizes at the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild Awards, and other contests.

A week before the Oscars, it would take a $50 bet on Oppenheimer to win back $51 for a $1 profit, according to DraftKings. The odds for Barbie were 35 to 1. — Reuters

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