What We Learned From New Jersey’s First Year Of Oscars Betting

Posted By Jessica Welman on February 26, 2019 - Last Updated on April 8, 2020

The first year of Oscars betting in New Jersey certainly had its fill of surprises. Most notably, the come from behind victory of Green Book for Best Picture caused a lot of jaws to drop.

The Best Picture winner, along with Olivia Colman besting heavy favorite Glenn Close in the Best Actress category, were the biggest upsets of the night.

Both felt like they came out of left field. So, now that the first year of Oscars betting is in the books, let’s run down some takeaways to consider should NJ sports betting sites get the OK to allow Oscars wagering in 2020.

The guilds are going to concur less and less often

For the first time, each major guild in the film world picked a different Best Picture winner.

Typically, the Directors Guild of America (DGA) and Producers Guild of America (PGA) are the best indicators of what film will win Best Picture. The PGA now has an 80 percent rate of awarding the next Best Picture winner.

The DGA still has a 76 percent prediction rate. However, keep in mind the PGA has only given awards starting in 1989. The DGA held its 71st awards ceremony, so a chunk of its winners matching the Oscar for Best Picture occurred during a period of film history when Director and Picture went hand in hand.

The reason the DGA award is now playing less and less of a role in predicting Best Picture is that a split between Best Picture and Best Director are increasingly commonplace.

Prior to 2000, there was a total of 18 Picture/Director splits ever. Several of those came in the Oscars’ earliest years of existence, back in 1929.

Since 2000, there have been nine splits. There has been three in the last four years. What we are seeing is that the new normal is to split. The PGA and DGA split is not the only split either.

The Writers Guild of America awarded two films that didn’t even win the screenplay Oscars, let alone get a Best Picture nod.

Betting takeaway:

Pay more attention to the PGA award. Expect other guilds to increasingly award different films, so unless there is consensus, don’t read into them much.

In particular, avoid getting too invested in Golden Globe choices, which have only awarded one Oscar Best Picture winner in the past five years.

New members making an impact in technical categories

What is less clear is how much the new Academy members are responsible for the shift. Over the past three years, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has worked hard to expand membership in the following ways:

  • Better international representation
  • A more racially diverse membership
  • Younger members

You can see areas where some of this is bearing out in the smaller categories. After years of only one African-American woman winning a non-acting Oscar, the number tripled to three after Sunday night.

There was a record number of women winning Oscars, too. There were also a number of foreign films breaking into major categories, such as Never Look Away and Cold War.

The acting winners added to the diversity of the evening with three non-white actors taking awards. Director was a category that continued to be dominated by Mexicans, who have won five of the last six years.

However, when it came to Best Picture, the old-fashioned film prevailed. For most pundits, the backlash about Green Book’s arguably antiquated takes on racism and civil rights were prohibitive enough to write the movie off as a non-contender.

After both La La Land and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MO were denied the top prize in the wake of criticism about racial depictions in the film; Green Book seemed doomed to the same fate.

Yet, in the end, it defied expectations. There may be a ton of new Academy members, but when it comes to Academy-wide prizes like Best Picture, movies have to win over the old guard if they want to win.

Betting takeaway:

If you are going to bet on smaller categories, don’t be afraid to be risky. The upsets by Black Panther in Best Score, Production Design, and Costume Design were easy to forecast if bettors could get past the adage that the period pieces are who win these categories.

These new voters are largely composed of technicians, so expect those categories to honor more foreign films as well as more unconventional Oscar fare.

Oscars are spreading the wealth

For the first time since the Best Picture category expanded from five nominees in 2009, each nominee won at least one Oscar. Unlike the days of Titanic, which won 10 Oscars, these awards are now spread out over a wide number of films.

In the past few years, we’ve already seen the technical awards increasingly go to action pictures and comic book movies over a Best Picture contender. However, now even the major awards are getting handed out to several different films.

It seems like there is a logic to the practice, too.

Voters think, “Well, I need to give The Favourite something,” so they push for it in a category like Best Actress. BlackKklansman earned its award in Adapted Screenplay. Vice even nabbed one for make-up and hair styling.

By trying to award each movie with something, it makes it a little more difficult for films without a Best Picture nomination to succeed. Just look at Glenn Close and The Wife.

Despite this new generous approach, one Oscar prognosticating trick still seems to hold true: You need to win at least two Oscars besides Best Picture to be in the running for Best Picture. Spotlight is the only film since 1952 who managed to only win one award along with Best Picture.

Betting takeaway:

When you are trying to predict winners in future years, pay attention to the Best Picture nominees.

Ask yourself what category each film has the best chance to win. Moreover, when thinking about betting on a movie without a Best Picture nod, look at how strong its nominated competition is before firing.

Final Oscars betting thoughts

With the relative success of betting in New Jersey, maybe more states will consider Oscars betting in 2020?

While there were some speculation and concern about offshore books and bets on director Yorgos Lanthimos, the awards ceremony itself seemed completely unaffected by the US action.

The Oscars also brought in plenty of new bettors ready to place a couple of casual bets on their favorite celebrities. Even a mature market such as Nevada should be open to bringing in new bettors, even if it is an awards ceremony and not a sporting event.

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Jessica Welman

A graduate of USC and Indiana University, Jessica Welman has long been involved in the poker industry and online gambling. She has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and as the managing editor for WSOP.com.

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