With summer on its way out and fall on the horizon, sports fans are eagerly eyeing the arrival of football season.
Both the NCAA and NFL regular seasons produce a weekend ritual like no other, as fans line up at Las Vegas sportsbooks to bet on NFL and NCAA games. Point spreads ensure every game on the schedule generates action, making football by far the biggest draw when visiting Sin City sportsbooks.
But while single-game wagering has always been engrained in America’s love of the gridiron, bettors today have another way to sweat on Saturday and Sunday – sports betting competitions.
Organized in similar fashion to a poker tournament, the best sports betting contests in Las Vegas offer an opportunity to parlay a nominal entry fee into life-changing prizes. Depending on the contest, hundreds or even thousands of players will participate, each hoping to turn a knack for picking winners into a share of the multimillion-dollar prize pool.
I love challenging myself and testing my sports betting knowledge by entering contests, and based on the tremendous increase in field sizes over the last decade, I know I’m not alone. To help newcomers become acquainted with the world of Las Vegas sports pick prediction competitions, I’ve been writing guides for the biggest and best in the game.
Originating in 1986, the SuperContest sets the standard for sports betting competitions with its $1,500 entry fee and five weekly NFL picks against the point spread. And over the last two years, increased interest from the gambling public has led to 1st place payouts of over $1 million.
With that in mind, casino owner Derek Stevens sought to replicate the SuperContest to a tee when he created a picks contest of his own to help usher in the new Circa Sportsbook.
In an epic oral history on the creation and evolution of the SuperContest published recently by ESPN.com, longtime Las Vegas sports betting veteran and senior reporter for Vegas Stats and Information Network (VSiN) Dave Tuley explained how casinos came up with the idea of competitions in the first place:
“Contests in Vegas casinos – football, horse racing, slots – have always been about driving people into the property so that they then stay for dinner, go to a show, gamble in the casino.”
Legendary bookmaker Jimmy Vaccaro confirmed that, in early days, casinos considered sports betting contests as merely a hook to bring customers through the door:
“Casinos don’t make any money from contests, but back then you came in to pick up your ticket and then you brought it back in – which means we got you two more times during the week.”
These days, competitions like the SuperContest are big business in and of themselves, but Derek Stevens – with his decidedly old-school style of casino management – knows a good promotional ploy when he sees one.
Along with his brother Greg, Derek has spearheaded a revival in Downtown Las Vegas, where the brothers transformed the old Fitzgerald’s casino into The D. Having made his bones revitalizing the original Sin City Strip along Fremont Street, Stevens is currently hard at work building Las Vegas’ newest casino resort Circa.
Occupying the footprint where the old Las Vegas Club casino and Glitter Gulch strip club used to stand, Circa will boast 777 rooms in a glittering tower when it opens in December of 2020. And along with a two-story casino, the three-story Circa Sportsbook has been designed to supplant the Westgate SuperBook as the world’s largest sportsbook facility.
Here’s how Stevens described his vision for Circa Sportsbook in a press release:
“We’re going to make everyone feel welcome. Whether you’re a big bettor or a small bettor, doesn’t matter. We want you to come in, place a bet, catch the games, have some fun.
We’re not going to shy away from the big bettors. I’m not a guy who forgets this is gambling.”
To help ring in the debut of his Circa Sportsbook enterprise – which will also run the bookmaking at The D and Golden Gate casinos – Stevens looked to his own experience as a big-time bettor. Last year during the “March Madness” college basketball tournament, Stevens bet $25,000 at 40 to 1 odds on his alma mater Michigan to win the title.
He wound up hedging that potential $1 million payday when the Wolverines made a deep run, netting a six-figure profit in the process. But as Golden Gate sportsbook director Matthew Metcalf told the Las Vegas Review-Journal recently, that experience sweating a seven-figure score inspired Stevens to offer Circa Sportsbook customers a similar thrill:
“The whole thing was born out of Derek making these big bets the past few years.
He really likes the idea of someone having the chance to win $1 million.
He experienced that firsthand and how exciting it was, and he wanted someone else to have that.”
In May, when the first Circa operated sportsbook opened at the Golden Gate, Stevens made headlines by announcing the inaugural Circa Sports Million Pro Football Contest.
The Circa Sports Million contest costs $1,000 to enter – all of which goes to the prize pool as Stevens won’t collect a penny in rake for the house – and offers a guaranteed 1st place prize of $1 million for the winner.
Registration can be completed in person at the Golden Gate casino sportsbook through Saturday, September 7th at 3 p.m. local time. If you’re playing from out of state using a proxy service, be sure to have your designated proxy on hand to complete the necessary paperwork. Individual players can submit up to three entries each.
As in the SuperContest, players are challenged to pick five NFL games against the spread every week during the regular season. A correct pick which covers the spread is good for 1 point, while a push on the spread adds 0.5 points, and failing to cover generates 0 points.
By season’s end, the top-10 point earners will be awarded prizes ranging from $1 million for the winner to $5,000 for 10th place. The entire prize pool is guaranteed to be $1.5 million, so unless the first ever Circa Sports Million attracts 1,500 entries, an “overlay” in which the casino contributes the difference is entirely possible.
In addition to the primary prize pool awarded to season-long winners, Circa Sports Million will pay four quarterly prizes of $50,000 each to whomever earns the most points over Weeks 1-4, 5-8, 9-12, and 13-17.
As Stevens told Gaming Today magazine recently, the quarterly winner system was designed to give everybody a full season’s worth of action for their buy-in:
“We’re going to have quarterly winners. That makes us unique.
If you get behind by week eight and there’s 3,000 people in front of you, it’s tough to catch up.
But you can get hot for four weeks and win the quarter. We’re essentially giving people four chances to win.
We expect a lot of participation. We think it’s going to be very popular.”
Point spreads used for the Circa Sports Million will be generated in house and released to the public every Thursday morning at 10 a.m. These spreads remain fixed in place, so roster changes, injury news, and weather conditions that might impact non-contest lines won’t make a difference for contest purposes.
Players who are physically located in Nevada can use the Circa Sports online / mobile app to submit their weekly picks.
Based on the $1.5 million guaranteed prize pool and a top-10 payout scheme, the Circa Sports Million spoils will be divvied up as follows:
|1st place||$1 million|
Additionally, the top point-earner over Weeks 1-4, 5-8, 9-12, and 13-17 will pocket $50,000 thanks to the quarterly bonus mini-contest.
Speaking with industry news outlet SportHandle, Stevens explained why the guaranteed quarterly bonuses of $50,000 make the Circa Sports Million such a big bang for your betting buck:
“We think it’s special and what’s unique is it’s going to have quarterly winners.
We’re not only guaranteeing a million to the winner, but we’re also guaranteeing $50,000 to the winner of each quarter of the season. We think that’s going to give a little more incentive to enter.
I’ve played in lots of contests … sometimes in November you fall behind and have no shot to catch back up. This will keep you in action the whole time.
So we think the contest is pretty special.”
Circa Sports Million might be the newest sports betting contest to hit Sin City, but it’s sure to be one of the best thanks to Stevens’ leading the way. Respected by top-tier pros and recreational bettors alike, everything Stevens has built in Las Vegas has turned to gold, so I expect the same from his SuperContest inspired football picks contest. And at $1,000 with no rake, the Circa Sports Million provides the perfect alternative for SuperContest players looking for a discount.
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