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Big screen betting: Indiana gambling regulators approve Oscar wagers

22nd January, 23:44

The sports betting industry is stuck in pre-production in Illinois, but it's already going Hollywood in Indiana.

Hoosier gambling regulators announced Wednesday that sportsbooks will be able to lay odds on the Academy Awards next month, meaning Chicagoans can take a quick trip across the border to bet not only on the Bulls and Blackhawks, but also on Brad Pitt and Scarlett Johansson.

Online betting giants DraftKings and FanDuel each requested Indiana Gaming Commission approval to open the Oscars to the action.

"We conducted a review and determined that the request meets the requirements of statute and IGC standards and approved the requests," Gaming Commission executive director Sara Gonso Tait said in a statement. "Should circumstances arise that undermine the integrity of certain activities, it is within the IGC's discretion to change course based upon new information."

Meanwhile, thousands of impatient fans in Illinois would be happy just to be able to place a bet on a regular old sporting event such as the Super Bowl.

Nearly seven months after Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed sports betting into law as part of a massive gambling expansion, the Illinois Gaming Board has yet to announce an industry launch date.

Whenever that happens, Illinois' sports betting law seems to open the door to laying wagers on non-sporting competitions such as the Oscars, declaring that, beyond professional, college and motor sports, any "event or competition of relative skill" is fair game if the Gaming Board approves it.

Applications for sports betting licenses were issued for Illinois casinos and racetracks in December, while state gambling regulators are still ironing out thousands of rules governing operating procedures.

"The Phase 2 sports wagering Rules will address this topic. The IGB is working to release Phase 2 Rules in early 2020 and to ensure that sports wagering will go live in 2020, through an ethical, independent, thoughtful, and transparent process," a Gaming Board spokesman said in an email.

Sports betting was legalized in Indiana about two months before it was in Illinois, and sportsbooks opened in Indiana in September. Bettors have plunked down nearly $430 million in Indiana casinos and on mobile betting applications since then, generating almost $4 million in tax revenue, according to Indiana regulators.

Indiana now becomes the second state of 13 where legal sports betting is in operation to accept wagers on the Oscars and its 24 award categories.

New Jersey casinos first offered it up last year, with bettors wagering almost $750,000 on the award show, according to the Garden State's Division of Gaming Enforcement. They also took bets on the Emmys, though a handle figure wasn't available.

And betting companies want to keep branching out off the field. Indiana regulators say they've denied an unspecified number of other requests to take bets on non-sporting competitions that would fall under the state's "other events" approved betting category.

For big screen gamblers, DraftKings' betting lines as of Wednesday afternoon had "1917" as a slight favorite for best picture over "Parasite" and "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood." Renee Zellweger and Joaquin Phoenix were heavy favorites in the lead acting categories, while Laura Dern and Pitt were favored for supporting roles. And Sam Mendes held a slight edge over Bong Joon Ho and Quentin Tarantino for best director.

The Oscars take place Feb. 9. The Illinois Gaming Board next meets Jan. 30.