All Bets Are Off: New Jersey Regulator Mysteriously Pulls Plug on Oscars Betting

Posted on: February 4, 2019, 05:53h. 

Last updated on: February 4, 2019, 05:53h.

New Jersey sports books will not be taking bets on the Oscars this year, after all.

Oscars betting will not be taking place in New Jersey or anywhere else in the US this year. Could it be that AMPAS lodged a complaint with the DGE after it gave the green light last week? (Image: BGR

Just days after the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) gave the go ahead for legal wagering on the Academy Awards ceremony for what would have been the first time in US history, operators were told over to the weekend to remove their odds for reasons still unclear.

According to LegalSportsReport, the regulator informed operators in an email last week that “having reviewed the relevant information on integrity issues,” pre-event betting could be offered “for this year only.”

The message included a request for operators to confirm whether they intended set odds and, if so, what kind of wagers and betting limits they planned to offer.

Oscars Betting Integrity Problem

The 91st Academy Awards will take place on Sunday, February 29, at the Dolby Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles. Broadcast across the world, the ceremony generates big betting action in jurisdictions where it is legal, such as the UK.

But it appears that for the foreseeable future Americans will have to limit themselves to office pools, which are generally legal in the US provided the organizer does not take a cut.

In 2017, Nevada passed a bill that added “other events” to the list of permissible betting activities, which had previously been confined only to horse and dog racing, and athletic sports occasions. While the new law was largely aimed at adding esports into the mix, it was thought it could also pave the way for betting on awards ceremonies.

This did not prove to be the case.

The big issue for regulators in Nevada and elsewhere is the possible integrity issues that might arise from sanctioning betting for an event where the results are already known before they are publicly announced.

As Benjamin Eckstein of America’s Line told the AV Club recently, “PricewaterhouseCoopers, the geeks who come out every time with the briefcase, knows the results. Not that it ever leaks out, but it could. If it did, it could be a real black eye.”

AMPAS Objection?

Nevertheless, the DGE said it was prepared to work around the possible integrity issues and — having done its due diligence – it seems unlikely that it would have suddenly changed its mind. A more likely explanation is that the U-turn was performed at the behest of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), which stages the Oscars.

When it comes to Oscars betting, European sports books typically refuse large wagers and closely monitor the markets for suspicious betting patterns. They’re doubly reluctant to take big action on favorites because the dynamics of the Oscar voting process provide a unique set of betting circumstances.

Oscar winners are decided by over 6,000 voting members of the Academy of Motion Pictures and Science — a sample size that’s often similar that of people betting via the bookies. It’s not completely surprising, then, that they often arrive at the same answer.

That’s why putting your money on the bookies’ favorite for “Best Picture” is one of the safest bets going — just don’t expect big returns.