Filmmakers aren't the only ones hoping to take home some Oscar loot when the fabled golden statues are handed out on Feb. 24.
Two Canadian lottery corporations are taking bets on the Oscars to see how much interest there is in wagering on cultural events — a potential new source of cash as revenues level off.
Jean-Pierre Roy, a spokesman for Loto-Quebec, says non-sports bettors could be a profitable untapped market.
"We expect some sports lottery players who also love movies to play but we think there's going to be lots of people who love arts," he said, noting seven per cent of Quebecers bet on sports.
"We wonder if there's a bigger market for betting on cultural events."
Both Loto-Quebec and the Atlantic Lottery Corp. will be taking bets on the Oscars until Feb. 24. Roy said they're the only two such regulated organizations in Canada taking bets on Hollywood's big night.
A Statistics Canada report on gambling published in September 2011 says net revenue from government-run lotteries, video terminals and non-casino slot machines rose steadily from $2.73 billion in 1992 before levelling off at about $13.7 billion in 2007.
That figure held steady through to 2010, the agency says.
'We're always looking for new products — or a fresh take on an existing one'—James Reilly, Atlantic Lottery
Loto-Quebec reported lottery sales of about $1.7 billion in fiscal 2011-2012, which the government agency said was almost identical to the year before.
The Atlantic Lottery Corp. was the first regulated organization out of the gate in Canada with the Oscar idea.
"We're always looking for new products — or a fresh take on an existing one," James Reilly, Atlantic Lottery's senior brand manager of sports, said in a statement.
"It was an obvious choice to offer since millions of people tune into the annual awards show. People are always casting their votes around the water cooler at work and now they have the option to make their predictions pay off.
"It gives them a safe and regulated way to have some fun."
Roy acknowledged the Oscar betting is a departure for Loto-Quebec, which has offered sports betting since the early 1990s.
Both lottery corporations are offering choices in the top six categories — best film, best director, best actor and actress and best supporting actor and actress. Loto-Quebec is also accepting bets on best foreign film, which is being contested by Montreal director Kim Nguyen and his movie War Witch (also known by its French-language name Rebelle).
Bettors can also take a chance on a Quebec entry in the best-short-film category but that's in the form of a yes or no question on whether Yan England's Henry will win.
Minimum bets in each category in both lotteries are $2.
Roy said the lottery corporation didn't do any market research before taking the plunge. It's not costing anything since it's being added to the Mise-o-jeu games — in Atlantic Canada it will be part of Pro-Line Futures — and Loto-Quebec isn't marketing it aggressively.
The two corporations also came up with their own odds.
British betting tradition
Roy laughed when he was asked if Loto-Quebec considered going to the lengths of some of the British online betting sites.
"We're not there," he said. "We'll start with the main categories and go from there."
Paddypower.com, an Irish company that is one of the United Kingdom's biggest betting websites, was taking bets on whether James Bond actor Daniel Craig would parachute into the ceremonies or whether host Seth MacFarlane would dress up as a Bond girl. The Bond speculation comes as the super-spy character marks the 60th year since he first saw print, in the novel Casino Royale.
Roy said sometimes the corporation might offer an exotic bet during the Super Bowl, like whether the coin toss to start the game will come up heads or tails.