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Brit bettors favor Hunter, Hanks

Oscar odds-making, illegal in the U.S. but thriving at Ladbrokes in London, has Holly Hunter, Tom Hanks and “Schindler’s List” clobbering rivals for best actress, actor and picture.

Since Ladbrokes began accepting wagers Feb. 9 until the close of betting at 10 p.m. (London time) Wednesday, the trio widened its betting victory margins, creating far shorter final odds than last year.

The actress category produced the biggest trouncing: Hunter took the most wagers, winding up with 1-6 odds. That means a $ 6 wager returns the $ 6 plus only $ 1 winnings. Hunter also garnered the biggest individual bet, $ 7,500, said oddsmaker Paul Austin.

Trailing were Emma Thompson in “Remains of the Day” at 6-1 and Debra Winger (“Shadowlands”), Angela Bassett (“What’s Love Got To Do With It”) and Stockard Channing (“Six Degrees of Separation”) each at 12-1.

For actor, Hanks (“Philadelphia”) opened the betting session at even odds and ended five weeks later at 4-7. He was followed by Daniel Day-Lewis (“In the Name of the Father”) and Anthony Hopkins (“The Remains of the Day”) both at 7-2; Liam Neeson (“Schindler’s List”) was at 8-1; and Laurence Fishburne (“What’s Love Got To Do With It”) ended at 20-1.

For best picture, “Schindler” wound up odds of 1-5; trailing badly were “The Piano” at 5-1; “Remains” and “In the Name of the Father” both at 10-1; and “The Fugitive” running last with 16-1.

Austin speculated that favorites became runaways as bettors reflected on 1993 . Last year, each favorite won, and with longer odds: “Unforgiven” (even odds), Al Pacino in “Scent of a Woman” (even odds), and Thompson in “Howards End” (1-3 odds).

“Maybe they’re betting more for fun this year than for cash,” said Austin, who estimated $ 100,000 was wagered.

Steven Spielberg was “such a hot favorite” to win director that oddsmaking was abandoned for that category, he said.

Ladbrokes, possibly the world’s largest betting chain, produced favorites that were identical to those of the Prodigy on-line computer service’s balloting of 12,600 respondents.

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