Online bookmakers are now accepting wagers for the Academy Awards, and according to most sites Steve McQueen's acclaimed drama "12 Years a Slave" is the odds-on favorite to win Best Picture.
Online gambling is illegal in the United States, though many offshore sites still accept American wagers. While oddsmakers are typically spot-on when it comes to sporting events, the drama of the Oscars may be more unpredictable than your average athletic competition.
In Vegas, they say the house always wins, but savvy awards watchers likely know more than the individuals who set the lines for these sites. After all, a month ago, the popular site SportsBook.com was listing odds for "Diana," "The Fifth Estate" and "The Bling Ring" — none of which managed to gain any awards traction this year.
After scanning dozens of sites over the past two months, TheWrap chose to focus on SportsBook and YouWin.com. (We don't condone illegal gambling , so for those international bettors wishing to wager on the Oscars, you can find out which sites accept awards action by using OddsChecker.com). To summarize our findings, Leonardo DiCaprio is coming on strong, dark horse "Dallas Buyers Club" could play the Best Picture spoiler and Best Original Screenplay may be the hardest race to predict this year.
And now for the numbers:
"12 Years a Slave" is -350 at SportsBook, with "American Hustle" and "Gravity" next at +400 and +500, respectively. That means if you bet $20 that "American Hustle" will win, you stand to win $80. One month ago prior to the Oscar nominations, the same site had "Slave" at -200 and "American Hustle" and "Gravity" at +300 and +400, respectively, indicating that public support for "Slave" may be growing.
Meanwhile, over at YouWin, "12 Years a Slave" remains the favorite at -275, with "Gravity" and "American Hustle" not far behind at +300 and +1000, respectively. "Hustle's" had +800 odds just two weeks ago, indicating that public support may be slipping.
While some sites are split, most high-profile oddsmakers believe "Gravity" poses a bigger threat to "Slave" than "American Hustle," but that may have more to do with Alfonso Cuaron's presumed win for Best Director. Steve McQueen has the next-best odds in that race, as David O. Russell stands a better chance of winning a screenplay Oscar.
Back on SportsBook, Martin Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street" looms large at +4000, while "Dallas Buyers Club" and "Captain Phillips" stand at +5000 and +6000, respectively. If you prefer to root for an underdog, the best bet on the board may be "Dallas Buyers Club," which has come on strong in Phase Two and is considered a near-lock for two acting awards.
Also from TheWrap: Academy Vows No Best Picture Tie at the Oscars
One could argue that SportsBook has been off its game this season, as just last month, the site was accepting bets on 2014 titles such as "Foxcatcher," "Grace of Monaco" and "The Third Person," all while failing to list odds for Spike Jonze's romantic sci-fi movie "Her," which wound up with a Best Picture nomination.
"Her" and Alexander Payne's "Nebraska" represent SportsBook's long shots at +10000, while "Philomena" brings up the rear at +15000.
As for YouWin, the site has just bumped up "Dallas Buyers Club" from +25000 to +1400 catapulting Matthew McConaughey's AIDS drama in front of "Wolf of Wall Street," which the site considered the only movie with a real shot of upsetting "Slave," "Hustle" and "Gravity" just two weeks ago. Now "Wolf" is listed at +5000, while "Philomena" has climbed from +25000 to +15000. That leaves "Captain Phillips," "Her" and "Nebraska" bringing up the at +20000. YouWin may be bracing itself for an upset, considering that five of the nine Best Picture nominees had +25000 odds just two weeks ago.
SportsBook and YouWin go the extra mile by offering wagers on Best Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress. The favorites in those categories are "Gravity" director Alfonso Cuaron (SB: -1000/YW: -1000), "Dallas Buyers Club" stars Matthew McConaughey (-700/-700) and Jared Leto (-1200/-1200), "Blue Jasmine" star Cate Blanchett (-2500/-2000) and "Slave" actress Lupita Nyong'o (-300/-275).
Leto's odds have skyrocketed in recent weeks (from -300 on YouWin), while McConaughey is now the favorite over "Slave" star Chiwetel Ejiofor, who YouWin had favored prior to the Golden Globes. The two have been jockeying for position all awards season, though multiple sites currently give Leonardo DiCaprio better odds than Ejiofor, possibly sensing a groundswell of support for DiCaprio. Most oddsmakers consider his "Wolf of Wall Street" co-star Jonah Hill to be a long-shot in the supporting actor category.
Elsewhere, it seems Michael Fassbender is the only actor these websites believe has a chance to upset Leto, while Amy Adams has a slight edge over Sandra Bullock when it comes to runner-up for Best Actress, though PaddyPower.com favors the "Gravity" star.
The tightest acting race is shaping up to be between Nyong'o and "American Hustle" firecracker Jennifer Lawrence, with Nyong'o considered the favorite, possibly in part because Lawrence won an Oscar last year for "Silver Linings Playbook."
While a handful of sites are taking action on below-the-line categories such as sound mixing and visual effects, one site, BetFair.com, allows betting on all 24 Oscar categories.
"12 Years a Slave" is the heavy favorite to win adapted screenplay, though the original screenplay race remains tight, with "American Hustle" barely favored over "Her" on PaddyPower, which along with BetFred.com, is the only site still listing odds for the controversy-plagued song "Alone Yet Not Alone," which had its nomination recently rescinded by the Academy.