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'Rings' odds-on Oscar favorite

Odds-posting and gaming Web site says Tolkien's tops

Elijah Wood has played Frodo Baggins in all three "Lord of the Rings" films. The final chapter in the trilogy is due December 17.

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LOS ANGELES, California (Hollywood Reporter) -- Las Vegas has been disseminating odds on who will win Oscars for years, though actual betting on the outcome of the annual Academy Awards contest isn't allowed there.

But with the advent of legal online betting, offshore companies not only take bets on who will win but on who will be nominated.

This year's overwhelming favorite for a best picture nomination is "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," according to odds posted at It's such a lock, in fact, that a bettor will win a scant $1 for each $20 wagered if the film is nominated.

Rounding out the field of favorites for a best picture nomination are, in order, "Mystic River," "Cold Mountain," "Big Fish" and "House of Sand and Fog."

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) will announce the nominations for the 76th Academy Awards on January 27, 2004.

"Invariably, we're the first to get odds up, and invariably, we offer the biggest selection of bets," said Stuart Doyle, chief betting officer at, an Antigua-based firm that takes primarily sports bets.

In fact, also is offering a whole slew of wagers surrounding Wednesday's opening of "The Return of the King." The over-under for the film's three-day opening, for example, is $65 million, and it's heavily favored to beat the five-day opening tally of slightly more than $102 million for its predecessor, "The Two Towers."

You can even bet on whether the movie gets more or fewer than 9.5 Oscar nominations.

Doyle said the site boasts only about 50 users who regularly bet on movie box office performances each week, making that aspect of its business more an attention getter than a profit center. But the Academy Awards garner about 1,500 bettors each year.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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