This story first appeared in the Jan. 25 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
From horse racing to greyhounds, gambling has a long tradition in the U.K., where it is legal nationwide. British gambling firms have come out with their initial odds on this year's Academy Awards, with Lincoln earning the shortest odds to win best picture at all four major betting houses.
An hour or so after garnering 12 nominations Jan. 10, Lincoln's 2-5 odds made it the favorite at bookmaker William Hill, which cites internal "research" in setting its number. After its Golden Globes wins, Argo surged.
One of the biggest contenders, according to the betting firms, is Les Miserables, which was 10-1 or shorter Jan. 15. But its pricing is slightly skewed because British gamblers like to bet on homegrown fare, and Les Mis producers and director Tom Hooper are Brits.
U.S. casinos sometimes offer odds on the Oscars, but in a good year (with lots of British talent), the U.K. gaming industry can expect to take in well north of $1 million in awards wagers. When Helen Mirren won best actress for The Queen in 2007, a betting bonanza generated more than $1.2 million. This year, the dearth of Brits in big acting categories is likely to diminish returns.
Says a spokesman for London's Ladbrokes, "At least Adele [in the best song category for Skyfall] is keeping the bettors' hopes for British success up."
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