Nobody wants to admit to betting on their own business
Back in the classic studio era, Jack Warner used to collect his executives’ Oscar ballots and fill them out himself.These days, studio execs don’t just cast their own ballots. Some bet against their own candidates. Some even bet thousands of dollars against their own movies on opening weekend. Tradesports, a Dublin-based online gambling exchange, in January set the chance for “The Aviator” to win best pic at 58%. By the start of the Oscarcast, it had risen to 65%. Hollywood is a gamblers’ town — for understandable reasons. “I was telling a friend about the wild swings of emotion I get from my job,” says Andy Bellin, a screenwriter and author of the memoir “Poker Nation.” “He reminded me these were the occupational hazards of being a professional poker player. The irony is that I was referring to my recent foray into the movie business.” For all the televised poker tournaments and Vegas junkets, nobody in Hollywood wants to admit they’re betting on their own business. But privately, agents and execs admit they frequent sites such as Tradesports and Betfair, which was founded by a former equities trader and boasts some 2 million bets a day. Just ask Reagan Silber, a film producer, casino owner and co-founder of Edge TV, a fledgling cable network devoted to the gaming industry. “It’s the most direct way of betting on what they do in their daily lives,” Silber says. Tradesports and Betfair aren’t traditional bookmaking clubs, paying the winners with house money. They match gamblers against each other and collect a fee. Jeff Tufts, who sets the morning line at the Santa Anita and Del Mar racetracks, calls them the “eBays of gambling.” These sites set odds on everything from the Oscars to “American Idol” to the Michael Jackson verdict. You can’t bet on such things on American cable TV. But last week, EchoStar broke new ground in a deal with the horseracing outfit TVG, allowing the net’s 10 million-plus subscribers to place racetrack bets by remote control. Edge TV is negotiating its first carriage deal. “If we’d been on the air,” Silber says, “we would have spent the 72 hours before the Oscars talking about the race.”
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