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And the award goes to…

The New York Times met John Richards this week, a statistician with a penchant for the dramatic — not in data, but on the red carpet.

This 40-year-old has turned the Oscars into his personal betting ring, a tradition he’s upheld since the golden year of 2016.

His latest adventure? A 100-mile odyssey in pursuit of Oscar gold, from the corridors of Washington, D.C., to a New Jersey truck stop where dreams (and bets) are made.

Armed with his DraftKings and FanDuel accounts, Richards placed a cool $1,800 on everything from Lily Gladstone snagging best actress in Killers of the Flower Moon to Oppenheimer blowing away the competition with best sound.

This cinematic sage isn’t playing around — unless you count his $70 hedge on Emma Stone in Poor Things, just in case the Academy throws a curveball.

Richards isn’t alone in his quest for Oscar glory. A select group of US states allow hopefuls to place bets on the outcomes of the biggest night in Hollywood, turning the ceremony into a high-stakes game of predictions and probabilities.

But here’s the twist in the plot: betting on sports is one thing, given their unpredictable nature. Betting on the Oscars, however, is akin to walking a tightrope without a net, considering the winners are predetermined and sealed in an envelope.

PwC, the gatekeeper of these coveted results, ensures the integrity of the process, leaving gamblers like Richards to rely on a mix of gut instinct and mathematical magic.

After Oppenheimer transitioned from a +800 dark horse to a -3,000 shoo-in, the world of Oscar betting shines a spotlight on an intriguing intersection of entertainment, intuition, and the irrefutable allure of what might just be the most glamorous gamble of all.

From Russia with Lottery

The firm running Britain’s National Lottery found itself under scrutiny in The Guardian this week after revelations surfaced about its financial ties to banks from Russia.

Allwyn, the gaming behemoth now steering the lottery’s future, secured a hefty loan topping half a billion pounds from VTB and Sberbank, Russia’s financial powerhouses, just before clinching the UK’s juiciest public contract.

Despite repaying the Russian share following the invasion of Ukraine, eyebrows are raised on whether the loan cushioned Allwyn’s costly bid for the lottery contract.

Despite sanctions slapped on the banks by the UK, Allwyn settled the debts right after bagging the contract, while outpacing competitors like Camelot and Richard Desmond.

Questions about transparency have been raised by The Guardian, and also in the halls of parliament, where Labour MP Clive Efford voiced concerns over the Gambling Commission’s silence on the matter during crucial discussions.

The regulator insists all bidders disclosed their financial backing and assures that no sanctioned funds fuelled Allwyn’s operations.

As the debate continues, this saga underscores a critical crossroad for the gambling sector, by balancing business ambitions with geopolitical sensitivities.

Cheltenham’s black market bonanza

This week at Cheltenham Racecourse, while the elite clink their champagne flutes, a clandestine group of unlicensed bookies will be on the prowl.

With some forking out up to £30,000 for the privilege to schmooze in style, it’s not just the horses that are under starter’s orders, reports the Daily Mail this week.

In a rare show of unity, the fractured factions of the racing world have united to flag a surge in shadowy offshore gambling activity.

With talk of government affordability checks threatening to send punters scurrying further towards this black market, the stakes are high for the future of racing.

These unlicensed ventures range from globe-trotting online outfits based in tax havens to the more personal touch of a WhatsApp wager. None contribute to racing’s pot.

While licensed bookies pour £400m annually into racing’s coffers, their rogue counterparts are busy draining the sport’s resources, while risking prize funds, horse welfare, and countless jobs, the paper reports.

With bookmaker contributions pivotal to racing’s very survival, the rise of these black-market bookies at Cheltenham is more than just a fly in the ointment.

William Woodhams of Fitzdares paints a grim picture: “Illegal bookmakers are taking boxes at Cheltenham and entertaining potential clients without paying a penny into racing,” he told the newspaper.

After another week of thrills, spills, and an unwelcome guest list, the question remains: will the sparkle of Cheltenham be dulled by the shadow of the black market?

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