Betting the Grammys for Fun and, Less Likely, Profit

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you lost a bunch of money on the Seahawks on Sunday. Purely hypothetical, of course. There’s no way you were—again, hypothetically—counting your (hypothetical) money in the waning seconds of the Super Bowl, an unstoppable Marshawn Lynch with 102 yards in his pocket, on the one with three downs to go, and how in the hell could Pete Carroll call a pass, that’s got to be the numb-nutsin’est play in the history of the… well. Anyway.

What would hypothetical, down-and-somehow-out you do in this scenario? Why, you do what any red-blooded American degenerate would. You’d chase. You’d take your questionably-earned money and you’d shove it right back down gambling’s slavering maw in the hopes of digging out, a thing no one has done ever.

But where are you, the demonstrably terrible sports bettor, going to lay your wagers? The NBA? You mean the one major sport that actually went through an actual crooked-ref scandal in actual 2007, and not some far-flung era when fixing sports was a close second favorite national pastime behind going blind from drinking brandy cut with metal filings and flapper sweat? The NHL? Go ahead. Name all four NHL divisions. We dare you.

A reasonable person would start looking around at alternatives right about now. Like, say, at the 57th Grammy Awards.

Johnny Avello at Wynn Las Vegas

Betting on non-sporting events isn’t legal in the United States, not even in Las Vegas—as hard as we tried last year, no one would take our money on “At least one member of GWAR will get a Viking funeral in 2014” prop, which would have killed—but you can wager on the event at offshore sportsbooks. And just because Vegas puts the kibosh on it, that doesn’t stop Johnny Avello, Wynn Las Vegas’ director of race and sports operations, from sending out entertainment-purposes-only lines.

“I’ve been doing the Grammys for quite a while. They’re never easy. It seems like there are more opinions on music than there are on movies,” Avello said. “The way I do my odds, I do my research, talk to some music people in the business, and I put all those thoughts together and rank [nominees] from one to five. Then I have to figure out how strong the favorite should be.”

Offshore betting site PaddyPower allows users to wager on the outcome of Grammy Award categories such as Album Of The Year and Song Of The Year

The heaviest of favorites, if you were to find an offshore betting site of questionable legality, given your state’s fair and equitable online gaming laws, is Sam Smith for Best New Artist. Avello lists him as the 1-to-5 favorite in that category, meaning you’d have to bet $100 to win $20. Online betting shop goes even further, pegging Smith at 1-to-7. No one seems concerned that Smith’s admitting to biting Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” will harm the cause — least of all Tom Petty, who’ll be content to sit back and collect royalty checks because the Morrissey-our-generation-deserves picked up a copy of Full Moon Fever somewhere along the way.

Avello also has Smith listed as the favorite for Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album. Bovada offers a proposition bet (a “prop”) on whether Smith will sweep all six of his nominations with “No” a 1-to-10 favorite. Seems solid, given both Bovada and Avello installed Beyonce as the favorite to take Album of the Year, with Avello positing 6-to-5 odds. And you believed them when they said Jay and Bey weren’t in the Illuminati.

The Best Rap Album category figures to be the toughest race, where Iggy Azalea is a narrow favorite for The New Classic at 2-to-1 over established heavyweights and critical darlings Eminem, Common, Schoolboy Q and Wiz Khalifa. Your write-in bet for Run the Jewels’ RTJ2 may not pay off in any kind of tangible “real” money, but yes, you’re right, it would indeed be a moral victory, like voting Libertarian or continuing to buy new Black Keys records.

Iggy Azalea and Sam Smith are two of this year’s favorites

“Iggy Azalea had the sales this year. Common was 9-to-1. There’s just so many that can win this category. My staff kind of liked [Schoolboy Q] a lot. They thought that was a possible upset special. I was thinking Eminem in the two-spot, but I was kind of swayed by people I spoke to,” Avello said.

Nevada may nix betting on the Grammys, Oscars and the like—something about “No, of course you can’t place wagers” on “events where at least one person already knows the outcome;” it’s all very technical—but the United Kingdom has no such qualms. Apparently once you make powdered wigs a part of your legal process, “fuck it, let’s just see what happens” becomes your national ethos. U.K. betting shop Ladbrokes took bets on WWE action in London last year; these are either a people utterly unconcerned with predetermined outcomes or they’re hardcore Calvinists. Still, even in a betting-mad environment, entertainment wagers aren’t big money.

“I don’t think it’s really huge in popularity. Maybe the day of, maybe some money comes in just to have a little excitement about something,” Avello said. As if the excitement of Azelia Banks’ and Snoop’s Twitter after Iggy Iggs wins Best Rap Album wouldn’t be enough.

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Follow Jason Scavone on Twitter @JasonAScavone
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