While the announcement of Las Vegas odds on Academy Award winners is a popular topic this weekend, it is important to know that actual wagering on the event is not allowed in Nevada. For this reason, you will frequently see disclaimers on posted odds that state “For entertainment purposes only.”
The reason is simple. Nevada sports books will not accept wagers on any outcome that is not decided on the field of play, or is determined by a vote. Speaking about the Academy Award presentations, Legendary Las Vegas odds-maker Jimmy Vaccaro says “the winners are determined ahead of time” and the Las Vegas books have no way of verifying when the decisions are made. Vaccaro, who sets odds at the South Pointe Casino & Hotel in Las Vegas, went on to say that those uncertainties would “compromise the integrity of the wagering.”
Take the Super Bowl instance. “The result of any bet we take on the game must be verified by the official NFL stat sheet.” He uses the example of the proposition bet that was popular with off-shore bookmakers regarding “the color of the Gatorade dumped on the coach during the game.” He says there is no official way to verify which color it actually was. It is the same with “The number of times the word ‘Omaha’ was used by the quarterbacks in the game.” That is not a statistic the NFL tracks and therefore “cannot be verified.”
As for wagering on an Academy Award, Vaccaro says Nevada will not allow it because there is the chance that “people will leak information before the event. There is a time lapse between when the vote is actually taken and when the result is announced.” This is the same reason that Nevada book makers will not take bets on events such as dog shows, reality shows or political races to name a few.
The refusal of Nevada sports books to take these wagers is not just a matter of choice. It is in compliance with rules set down by state law which, since 1985, has outlawed wagering on non-sporting events. Before that date, almost anything was fair game, including “who shot J.R.,” where the Skylab would land, and even the date of the end of the world. In January 2011, however, the law was amended to allow wagering on those events only if the casino can guarantee fair action to the public. The first wagering on a non-sporting event happened in June of that year when Wynn Las Vegas posted odds on the World Series of Poker.
When asked if the South Pointe was posting odds on the year’s Oscars, Vaccaro replied “No, I leave that to Johnny (Avello at Wynn Las Vegas). He does a great job of that.” Keeping in mind that Nevada does not allow actual wagering on the Academy Award show, and for entertainment purposes only, Avello’s favorite for Best Picture for 2014 is “12 Years a Slave” at 7-5, followed by the Tom Hanks drama “Captain Phillips” at 4-1. The 50-1 long-shot this year is “Nebraska.”
By Chuck Podhaisky