Billion bets on 'Slumdog Millionaire' in India

New Delhi, Feb 16 (IANS) Will Danny Boyle's "Slumdog Millionaire" strike gold at the Oscars? A whopping Rs.2 billion ($41 million) is said to be riding on that question, as bookies pitch for the rags-to-riches drama, setting off a new betting trend in India.

The Oscar awards ceremony is Feb 22, and the film set in India has 10 nominations. This includes three entries for music maestro A.R. Rahman's background score and two songs. And they have all emerged as clear favourites with the bookies.

India has traditionally seen a lot of betting in sports, especially cricket.

"This is yet another new trend picking up in Indian betting circles. Probably this will be the first time when both bookies and punters in the country are placing bets on the Oscars," a Mumbai-based bookie told IANS on condition of anonymity.

"Many of the punters who used to bet on cricket largely are now discussing 'Slumdog Millionaire's' chances of winning. But the number of punters and bookies is still very less as people are not aware where to bet and how to bet," said the bookie.

Rahman has been nominated for Best Original Score and his songs "Jai Ho" and "O Saaya" are also up for the Best Original Song for a motion picture.

"Punters are crazy about A.R. Rahman. The reason behind placing bets on Rahman could be his high status in the Indian entertainment industry. The Indian connection to the movie also makes it favourite among the punters," said a punter.

According to some rough estimates provided by bookies, about Rs.2 billion is riding on "Slumdog Millionaire" in the Indian betting circles.

Last month the film won four Golden Globes and recently bagged seven British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) awards. The BAFTA win has fuelled its Oscar chances.

While international websites began accepting bets on "Slumdog Millionaire" as soon as the Oscar nominations were announced, the Indian bookies reacted to it later.

The bookies say lack of knowledge about international films is also holding people back from placing bets on Oscars.

Outside India too huge money is riding on "Slumdog Millionaire" and its director.

On betting site Paddy Power, both the film and its director Danny Boyle have odds of 2/5 (0.4) to win the Best Picture and Best Director, respectively.

According to the famous US-based betting website betus.com, the money line for "Slumdog Millionaire" is 250. For Danny Boyle, it is 225. This is because both are hot favourites to win in their respective categories.

In the international bookies circuit, however, there are no bets for Rahman winning the Oscars as most of the bets are on the acting, best film and best director categories.

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