Betting on awards shows is not just a way to spice up a dull evening. The odds are pretty good.
Photo: Carin Baer / AMC
Not sure who is going to win an Emmy? You’re not alone. Gambling operations are guessing too and the complete lack of statistics means that the house is anything but guaranteed to win. “This is actually more of a pain in the ass for us,” says bookmaker Kevin Bradley of Bovada.lv, a betting site designed to allow everyone to wager on everything. “It’s not as traditional as let’s say doing odds on something like which team’s going to win the Super Bowl.” And that’s why an awards show you may or may not give a damn about can turn into the perfect opportunity to put your money down: You’ve got a real chance.
Let’s dissect how the initial odds are actually made. The numbers guys employed by gambling firms read a lot of websites and blogs. That’s basically it. Check out Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and Deadline Hollywood and you’ll know as much as anyone in the back room. The only wrinkle is that the guys in the back room know that you know what they know. “These blogs give their picks for all these award shows,” says Bradley. "People who read that will come and start betting, so we have to try and keep up with those sorts of things.”
Bradley's team ultimately splits time looking at Emmy coverage and looking for patterns in past Emmy betting behavior. They watch specific bettors who have won in the past and adjust odds based on their bets. Bovada.lv actually opens betting earlier for awards than sports events just to get the information from those early bettors. This year, Breaking Bad went from 2/7 to 1/4 in the Best Drama category.
By the way, none of this is legal in Vegas; you can only do this online. That’s unfortunate for the casinos. Bradley says he sees more money coming in on entertainment and miscellaneous categories every year. Interest is growing exponentially so he's beefing up the number of categories to bet on. “The last few years, we’ve only offered eight categories,” he says. "Now we’ve got 15.” What he also has is low limits ($500 will probably be the maximum Emmy bet), which is important given the not-miniscule chance his whole operation could lose its metaphorical shirt if they let people go all in.
"We don’t want to take a lot of risk on this,” Bradley says. “It’s not for us to win a ton on, it’s not for us to lose a ton on. It’s more for people to just have fun with.”
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