Feb. 24, 2007 -- If you're in an Oscar pool at the office, you may be interested in what the experts think of the odds.
For the last 12 years, John Avello, director of race and sports operations for the Wynn Las Vegas Casino Resort, has been the go-to guy when it comes to handicapping the red carpet crowd. And this year, he says the best actress category is the closest he's ever seen to a sure thing.
"There is just no way that Helen Mirren is going to lose," he said.
Mirren is up for her role in "The Queen."
Avello places her odds at 1 to 9, which means to win $1 you've got to bet $9. Judy Dench, nominated for "Notes on a Scandal," is running a distant second, with odds at 10 to 1, followed by Meryl Streep, Penelope Cruz and Kate Winslet.
Nevada gaming laws don't allow visitors to bet on the Oscars, but online gaming sites do. And those sites are just as sure of Mirren's chances. Top gaming site William Hill actually stopped accepting bets when her odds hit 1 to 66.
"Our customers think the best actress race is already over and, following Mirren's recent success at other award ceremonies, we are inclined to agree with them," Hill's spokesman, Rupert Adams, told Agence France Presse.
Forest Whitaker, star of "The Last King of Scotland," is similarly strong in the best actor category, entering Sunday night with favorable 1 to 5 odds, ahead of Peter O'Toole, Will Smith, Leonardo DiCaprio and long-shot Ryan Gossling.
But Avello, who boasts a 77 percent accuracy rate, isn't so sure about the best picture category. He says he "crashed" last year by picking "Brokeback Mountain" over ultimate winner "Crash."
His Sunday outlook has "The Departed" at 9 to 5 with "Little Miss Sunshine" barely behind at 2 to 1, followed by "Babel," "The Queen" and, finally, "Letters from Iwa Jima."
The online sites set their odds according to who's betting and how much. But Avello depends on his own instincts and on information from "insiders."
Since Avello doesn't have money riding on the outcome, he can enjoy the big night. This year he is hosting his own party.
"There's been a big buzz about it for as long as I've been doing it," he said. "This event always creates consistent excitement, year in and year out."