Indiana OKs casino, mobile sportsbook wagers on the Oscars

Wednesday 22nd January 2020

Gamblers who win big Feb. 2 betting on the Super Bowl, or those hoping to recoup their losses, won't have to wait long for another major national event -- albeit unorthodox -- to wager on.

The Indiana Gaming Commission (IGC) on Wednesday authorized the state's casinos and mobile sports wagering operators to set odds and accept bets on the winners at the 92nd Academy Awards.

Under the rule, wagers are permitted on all 24 Oscar categories, though most sportsbooks in Indiana are likely to limit betting to the six major awards: best picture, director, actor, actress, supporting actor and supporting actress.

Sara Tait, IGC executive director, said the Indiana law enacted last year that legalized sports wagering also permits operators to request the Gaming Commission approve betting on non-sporting events that meet specific integrity criteria.

"We conducted a review and determined that the request meets the requirements of statute and IGC standards and approved the requests," Tait said.

"Should circumstances arise that undermine the integrity of certain activities, it is within the IGC's discretion to change course based upon new information."

So far, only Indiana and New Jersey have approved Oscar wagering. Garden State sportsbooks reportedly handled approximately $1 million in bets last year when New Jersey became the first state to authorize Academy Award wagers.

"Oscars betting was a hit in its first year in New Jersey, and we suspect that interest will only grow," said Jessica Welman, an analyst for the PlayUSA gaming news network who earned a master's degree in film and media studies at Indiana University in Bloomington.

"We saw last year that bettors were less motivated by the favorites and more interested in backing their favorite films and movie stars. This year's field of nominees has star power in front of and behind the camera, so that should help drive interest."

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Oscar wagers almost certainly will be available at the FanDuel sportsbook in the Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City, and through the FanDuel website and mobile app, since FanDuel requested IGC approval of Academy Award bets.

The DraftKings website and app, which operates in Indiana through East Chicago's Ameristar Casino, also is likely to offer odds. It was the first sportsbook last year to jump into Oscar wagering in New Jersey and joined FanDuel in requesting Indiana approval.

Welman said while everyone enjoys debating whether a particular film or performer is the best, being able to wager actual cash on the Oscars provides an opportunity for people to really put their money where their mouths are.

The Times' Oscar picker, Matt Erickson, believes the Best Picture winner might not be the movie that Academy Award voters like best, but the movie that is "least disliked."

He said it's possible, due to the ranked-choice voting system used for the award, that a film ranked No. 1 by a sizable group of voters, but also considered 2nd or 3rd best by many more, has a superior chance of being named Best Picture than a film loved by some and hated by others.

"While looking at the Golden Globes as a bellwether can be helpful to make a case for '1917' and 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,' you can't discount 'Parasite' winning the ensemble award from the Screen Actors Guild," Erickson said.

"Actors make up the biggest segment of all the Academy's different branches, which means that movie is going to get a lot of first-place votes for Best Picture at the Oscars. That really makes it a three-horse race, and each is likely to get a lot of No. 1 spots from voters. But which will get the most No. 2 and No. 3 votes? That's the big question, and why 'Parasite' could be a very live underdog pick."

The Academy Awards will be telecast live from Hollywood at 7 p.m., Feb. 9.

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Chief Political Reporter

Dan has reported on Indiana state government for The Times since 2009. He also covers casinos, campaigns and corruption.

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