FILM / Horse trading continues for award favourites: American gambling laws preclude much legal betting on the Oscars. Sheila Johnston speaks to a British bookie about the latest odds

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The Independent Culture
ALTHOUGH the Oscars are the object of the fiercest speculation in Hollywood, Californian gambling restrictions preclude formal betting on the outcome, according to Graham Sharpe of the William Hill betting chain. 'People have even flown over to Britain on Concorde to bet on the presidential elections,' he says.

William Hill, however, is offering odds, which are as follows this week - the figures in brackets show the odds when the nominations were announced (17 February): Best Film: Unforgiven 8-11 (evens); Howards End 11-4 (6-4); Scent of a Woman 9-1 (5-1); The Crying Game 4-1 (10-1); A Few Good Men 9-1 (12-1). Best Actor: Al Pacino 8-11 (evens); Clint Eastwood 9- 2 (3-1); Stephen Rea 6-1 (5-1); Denzel Washington 5-1 (4-1); Robert Downey Jnr 11-2 (8-1). Best Actress: Emma Thompson 1-2 (4-9); Susan Sarandon 5-2 (7-2); Catherine Deneuve 6-1 (5-1); Mary McDonnell 14-1 (12-1); Michelle Pfeiffer 14-1 (12-1).

Sharpe has just taken the largest single Oscar bet ever: pounds 1,500 (cash) says that Unforgiven gets the statuette. Another punter has laid pounds 800 on Al Pacino for best actor, shortening his odds at a blow from evens to 8-11. 'The Crying Game has come in for a lot of support. It has moved from outsider to third favourite. The money for best actress has been on Susan Sarandon because Emma Thompson's price might put off small bets.'

Gamblers might be better advised to fly to Las Vegas, where Thompson is joint favourite with Sarandon at 7- 5. There, too, The Crying Game is joint favourite with Unforgiven at 2-1. And Pacino is neck-and-neck with Eastwood at 8-5.

'It's very hard to make the Oscars pay for us - often all the favourites come in,' Sharpe says. The bookie's dream ticket? A Few Good Men for best film, Stephen Rea for best actor and Michelle Pfeiffer for best actress.

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