A worldwide leader in on-line gaming is urging Oscar fans to trust ''their Inner Grammy'' when trying to choose which film or star will take home a 2005 Academy Award.
Bowmans.com, founded 20 years ago by Toronto native Gary Bowman, said yesterday the Ray Charles sweep of the Grammys on Sunday night points to a trend where sentimental favourites often rule these large awards.
So far, Bowmans's front-running Oscar film is The Aviator followed by Million Dollar Baby. But the posthumous nostalgia for all things Charles has prompted the site to issue a warning: The biopic Ray could upset the betting order for best picture.
"Kanye West was a 2-1 favourite to win the most Grammys based on number of nominations," pointed out Bowmans's chief executive Chris Milward. "But the people loved legendary Ray Charles, and at 15-1, he swept everything."
Under the best-actor category, Jamie Foxx (who played Charles in Ray) is Bowmans's favourite front-runner, followed by Leonardo DiCaprio (The Aviator) and Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda).
Hilary Swank (the boxer in Million Dollar Baby) is ranked first among best actresses, followed by Annette Bening (Being Julia) and Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake).
Yesterday, Steve Rapp, Bowmans's Toronto-based marketing consultant, said his firm's Academy Awards odds are on The Aviator's Martin Scorcese for best director, followed by Million Dollar Baby's Clint Eastwood and Alexander Payne for Sideways.
"The feeling out there among our clients is that it's a two-man race between The Aviator and Ray for most categories," said Rapp. "But people don't bet the favourites. They look for the long shots where they can make the most money."
Rapp's top picks among those least favoured to win, include Johnny Depp (Finding Neverland) for best actor, Million Dollar Baby for best picture and Annette Bening for best actress.
The 77th Annual Academy Awards will be held at the Kodak Theatre on Feb. 27. The event made headlines yesterday after the awards' host Chris Rock was quoted in Entertainment Weekly saying the evening is nothing more than a glorified "fashion show" that is only watched by homosexuals.
Bowmans focuses on sports wagering, but recently branched out into on-line casino, poker and what Rapp calls "entertainment propositions" such as the Oscars and Grammys. Clients can also bet on one-off topics, such as how long the marriages of Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson will last.
The on-line gaming sector worldwide generated a gross revenue of $2.6-billion (U.S.) in 1996. It's estimated to be worth $12-billion by 2006.
Bowmans Oscar odds (as of yesterday)
-250 means you must wager $250 to win $100; +170 means you get $170 for every $100 you wager
The Aviator -250
Million Dollar Baby +170
Finding Neverland +3,300
Jamie Foxx (Ray) -1,500
(The Aviator) +700
Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda) +1,000
(Million Dollar Baby) +2,000
(Finding Neverland) +2,200
(Million Dollar Baby) -600
Annette Bening (Being Julia) +200
Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake) +1,200
(Spotless Mind) +2,500
Catalina Sandino Moreno
(Maria Full of Grace) +4,000