DraftKings’ Johnny Avello Talks Oscars Odds, Regulation Of Awards Betting

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Oscars odds are on the move as betting action rolls in at DraftKings (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

As Director of Race and Sportsbook Operations at DraftKings, Johnny Avello knows a thing or two not just about who’s appearing on the red carpet at the Academy Awards, but which of those stars are likely to walk out of the auditorium holding a statuette.

He’s not alone with his interest in betting on the Oscars. Avello is joined by plenty of gamblers eager to cash in on their predictions for Hollywood’s yearly party.

The handle is growing for off-field events. “There are a lot of customers out there,” he says, who are interested in odds for non-sporting opportunities.

“A lot of women bet the Oscars,” Avello told Gaming Today.

Which States Allow Betting On The Oscars?

Betting on the Academy Awards is available in New Jersey, Indiana, Michigan, and Louisiana.

But not Nevada? Really?

Not yet, at least.

“I will pursue it,” says Avello, whose company is not yet licensed as a sports betting operator in the Silver State. “It’s hard to say when” the Academy Awards will be available for wagering in the state.

A Las Vegas bookmaking stalwart, Avello has been setting Oscars odds for over 25 years, first for entertainment purposes, now for legal wagering.

Several states, though, turned down DraftKings’ request to offer Oscars odds.

“Some are taking a wait and see approach, and some just don’t think it’s worth it,” Avello says.

Oscars Betting At DraftKings

The max Academy Awards bet at DraftKings is $1,000. According to Avello, the number was set by regulators.

In the Best Picture category, betting action on “CODA,” a feel-good romance about a hearing daughter coming of age in a deaf family, has moved the odds dramatically.

“It started out as 20-to-1 odds, “Avello says. “Now it’s even.”

However, the frontrunner for the standout category is still “The Power of the Dog,” which stars Benedict Cumberbatch and has already won 277 other awards out of 317 nominations. The film is listed as the -115 favorite at DraftKings as of Friday morning.

Among these are two wins (Best Picture, Best Actor) at the British Academy Film Awards, which is generally considered an Oscars forerunner.

To that end, Cumberbatch is nominated for Best Actor, but he’s priced well behind Will Smith, who was nominated for “King Richard,” at DraftKings. Smith is the prohibitive -800 favorite, with Cumberbatch the +450 second choice.

“King Richard” also received a nod for Best Picture, but it carries long odds at +4000. If the film is to receive a win, it will likely be via Smith, who is on his third nomination without a score.

“Will Smith is excellent in this movie,” Avello says, “but sometimes you get rewarded for your body of work.”

While “CODA” is making a power move in Best Picture, it looks like Cumberbatch won’t do so in Best Actor.

“Smith is increasing his lead,” Avello points out.

In the Best Actress category, Avello acknowledged that Nicole Kidman “was getting play for a while” for her role as entertainment pioneer Lucille Ball in “Being the Ricardos,” but she has since “faded.”

He said players should watch out for Jessica Chastain, who was nominated for her work in the title role in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.”

“Her transformation as Tammy Faye was just remarkable,” he said.

Chastain is the -155 favorite, while Kidman and Penepole Cruz (Parallel Mothers) are both +450.

Is More Awards Betting On Horizon?

Beyond this year’s Oscars, Avello disclosed he’d like to expand DraftKings’ offerings to the Grammys, Tonys, and other awards shows.

“It’s growing,” Avello says. “We like to put up things for the masses.”

Most of the betting will slide in on Sunday, the day of the broadcast, according to Avello. But that’s not the only offbeat event found on DraftKings, which also invites gamblers to place bets on darts, cornhole, and cricket.

The numbers will likely move this weekend, so search out the best odds on the Academy Awards.

About the Author

Mary Beth Ellis

Writer and Contributor
Proud aunt Mary Beth Ellis is a widely published freelance writer who teaches at the college level. A native Cincinnatian, she pledges eternal allegiance to Sean Casey and Boomer Esiason. Mary Beth specializes in cultural pieces, history, and memoir. Her work has appeared in Creative Nonfiction, /Film, Redleg Nation, Monsters & Critics, Today.com, and many others. Her second book, a set of essays about embedding with the Ohio State University Marching Band, is in the works.

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