Oh, Oscar: Why is there no wagering on the Academy Awards in Nevada? By John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports April 28, 2021 at 7:00 pm I realize the Academy Awards will never rival the Super Bowl when it comes to attracting sports bettors. Some traditionalists around the sportsbook would probably scoff at the very idea of setting serious odds on such a frivolous affair as the annual race for the Oscars. But that doesn’t mean the massive sportsbooks of Las Vegas should be left out of the delight of placing a few bucks on Frances McDormand or Anthony Hopkins. In a nation gone bananas over sports betting, with legalization growing in state after state and sports leagues and individual teams themselves jumping into cooperative agreements with bookmaking behemoths and corporate casinos, devoting a small piece of the big board to Academy Awards wagers seems like a pretty harmless endeavor. But for now, it’s a no-go in Nevada, which has long considered itself the gold standard of the legal sports betting industry. That prohibition needs to end for the same reason that bookmakers no longer chalk the line. The world has changed. Johnny Avello of DraftKings It’s impossible to write about this issue with any sense of history without mentioning Johnny Avello, the longtime Strip sports book director who now helps guide high-tech betting giant DraftKings on its march toward dominating the rapidly growing industry. At Bally’s and Wynn Las Vegas, Avello made headlines with his annual Academy Awards odds, “for entertainment purposes only.” That was back before sports betting expansion had reached even Atlantic City. At last count, 25 states and Washington, D.C. had legalized sports betting. Other states are in the process of passing legislation as I write this. When Arizona comes online, fully 50% of American citizens will live in a state where sports gambling is legalized. Which is a polite way of saying, I think sports betting’s stigma is a thing of the past. That will lead some to argue the obvious, that the Academy Awards may be a thoroughbred race of a kind, but it isn’t sports. Fair enough. But from the look of things, however frivolous it may be, it’s a popular betting diversion for increasing numbers of players. These days, Avello has a front-row seat for actual Oscars betting. DraftKings offered two dozen categories. Academy Awards wagering is offered in at least three states. In some places this year you could bet on the Academy Award for Best Makeup & Hairstyling, for crying out loud. Just not Nevada. But while we’re on the subject, McDormand won as a betting favorite for Best Actress honor for her role in Nomadland. The late Chadwick Boseman was a prohibitive favorite to win Best Actor, but the award went to Anthony Hopkins for his role in The Father. My money would have been on Boseman. Obviously, I am not alone. At DraftKings, David Fucillo mused, “I mean, I just… what??? If you’re not going to honor the deceased Boseman, you’re going with Anthony Hopkins instead of Riz Ahmed?? Seriously, SAG?? The producers of the show were clearly trying to set up Boseman’s family accepting the win to close the show, and he was the last person shown in the In Memoriam montage. Just an absolute stunner…” Those who suppose that it’s possible to determine the outcome of the voting with insider information may have a point. Wherever there’s a bet to be made, there will always be someone trying to fix the score. To all of you who consider that possibility a disqualifier for the Academy Awards, I simply reply, “horseracing.” If the possibility of fixed outcomes was the standard, every thoroughbred track in America would be closed. And don’t get me started on the trotters and the dogs. If betting on the Academy Awards becomes an annual affair in Nevada, some smart guy is bound to suggest that wagers on political races should also go up on the big board. It already happens in other countries. Considering the toxic fallout from the 2020 presidential campaign, I’m just not sure the United States is ready to go that far. John L. Smith is a longtime Las Vegas columnist and author. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith.