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A Bookie’s Guide to the Oscars

The Oscars are just a few weeks out, and office pools are already filling up. Play it right, and you’ll come away with both a little extra cash and an excuse for watching War Horse. So to make sure you’ve got the edge, we’ve tracked down the house oddsmaker at the Wynn Las Vegas for a rundown of who’s favored. His name is Johnny Avello—and as it turns out, he’s quite the cinephile...

See Mr. Avello’s predictions here.

What’s your record like for the Oscars?

I’m around 77%, which means, you know, a little better than three out of four. I’ve had years where I sweep the board and I’ve had years where I go three out of six. There are always upsets, though. Nobody saw Crash coming.

How do you research this kind of thing?

Seeing the movie’s number one, and talking to people I know in the Hollywood community. I certainly keep abreast of what awards are going to be coming out, like the SAG awards, which just came out. Viola Davis won, and she’s my favorite, so there’s no real adjustments to be made there. The Artist won. Jean Dujardin beat George Clooney. Clooney’s my favorite, but just slightly. It’s really close. There won’t be any adjustment to make yet, but I have to keep an eye on it.

What’s your take on Best Director? It looks pretty tight.

I have Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist, but I have Martin Scorsese right behind him because he won the Golden Globe. I have to watch the Writers Guild, which will be coming up this month. The Directors Guild, the winner of that has gone on to win the Oscar nine out of 10 years, so that’s certainly going to be a factor. Now, The Artist has 10 nominations and Hugo has 11. So let’s say Hugo won Best Movie, then I think Scorsese would have a better shot. But we don’t know that until the night’s over.

So these odds are displayed around the sportsbook, but can you actually place a bet?

No, you can’t wager on it. It’s just for this party we do. They’re out there for the customers to grab, they’re on the boards, but it’s for entertainment purposes only. And the reason is the Gaming Control Board. It’s illegal to offer a betting proposition where someone knows the results in advance. So when you offer it for betting purposes, you have to make sure that all the participants know the results at the same time. But for the Oscars, whoever tabulates the votes, they have the results on the Wednesday, and nobody else knows until that Sunday, so it doesn't work.

You said you’d seen all the movies. Do you have a personal favorite, aside from The Artist?

I’ll tell you, I thought The Descendants was good, I thought it was probably a B, B+, tops. I thought The Help was an A-. Hugo, good movie but long, so A- for that. War Horse was B, B+. Moneyball was a B-. Midnight in Paris was a solid B. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was a C, and Tree of Life was an F. Did you see that movie?

I did. I liked parts of it, but I know what you mean.

I was very shocked that it got nominated. Anybody that I’ve talked to, I have not gotten a good response. Bad response, very bad.

Johnny Avello is executive director of race and sports operations at Wynn Las Vegas.

Photo Credit: Las Vegas Sun