Oscar odds offer few surprises

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The Independent Culture

With the Super Bowl over, oddsmakers turn their attention to the Academy Awards to determine the likelihood of winners. Most agree that early favorites are likely to be Oscar winners. Following 2010's previous awards ceremonies, from The Golden Globes to the Actors Guild, the same nominees have been consistently favored.

Other than some surprise nominations, such as District 9 for best picture, and unexpected snubs like Emily Blunt in The Young Victoria, it was a predictable list. Despite 10 nominations in this year's best picture category, Avatar is the overwhelming favorite in a two-horse race with The Hurt Locker. The Hurt Locker will return 27/20 if the war film nabs the Oscar, according to Onlinewire.com, a gambling sports and entertainment newswire, which cites Bodog Sportsbooks postings for the odds in the major categories (www.bodog.com).

The directors' race is also between these two films, except the favorite is Kathryn Bigelow at 1/3 odds for The Hurt Locker with her ex-husband James Cameron at 6/5 for Avatar.

The remaining odds for best picture include Up In The Air 10/1, Inglourious Bastards at 15/1, Precious at 25/1, The Blind Side at 40/1, Up, A Serious Man, and An Education at 50/1, and District 9 is the long shot with a return of $750 for every $10 bet. Not all oddsmakers agree on the specific wagers, but most agree on the winners.

Benjamin Eckstein, head of a syndicated odds column "America's Line," lists Avatar as a 1-2 favorite and The Hurt Locker an even-money bet.

In the best acting categories, Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock remain the favorites to win Oscars. Executive director of race and sports booking at the Wynn casino in Las Vegas, Johnny Avello, has Jeff Bridges as a 2-3 favorite and Sandra Bullock at even-money. After 15 years of setting the odds on Oscar winners, he has a 76 percent success rate, and also offers odds on reality shows such as American Idol and Dancing With the Stars.

Bridges, who has five prior nominations is way out ahead for his role as a down-and-out country singer in Crazy Heart with fellow nominees as follows, per BoDog: George Clooney (7/2 odds) who won for Syriana (2005), Colin Firth (10/1), Jeremy Renner (12/1), and Morgan Freeman (15/1) in the running.

Sandra Bullock is a big favorite for best actress at 20/43 against Meryl Streep (8/5 odds) who won for Sophie's Choice (1983) and Kramer vs. Kramer (1980) with 13 more nominations, Carey Mulligan (6/1), Gabourey Sidibe (12/1), and Helen Mirren (25/1) who won in 2006 for The Queen has a long shot for the Oscar for her role in the obscure film The Last Station.

The two biggest shoe-ins are in the best supporting category with Christoph Waltz for best supporting actor in Inglourious Basterds and Mo'Nique as best supporting actress in Precious. Ladbrokes, a British company that accepts bets online, lists both Golden Globes winners as heavy 1-8 favorites to win. (www.ladbrokes.com)

Since Las Vegas casinos don't take wagers on contests, the odds are strictly for entertainment, the office pool or Oscar parties. Bets can be placed online through other sources outside the US, such as Costa Rica's Bookmaker.com, one of the largest online gambling sites where it is legal and a major source of revenue for the nation.

London's Betfair.com is the largest internet betting exchange and Dublin's Intrade.com, a "prediction exchange," takes bets on non-sports events, such as elections, and bases market prices on probability or expected value.

Unless there's an upset and bettors are blind-sided, there will not be any windfalls in store for wagers. With so little up in the air with Oscar winners, a lot is riding on the entertainment value of the televised show on March 7 to keep viewers tuned in.