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Gary Trask

Gary  Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has worked as a writer and editor more than 20 years. The Boston native was a member of the Poker Hall of Fame's inaugural Media Committee and a current member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame voting panel.

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Top 10 Las Vegas sportsbook football news items

14 Aug 2017

By Gary Trask
LAS VEGAS -- The official start of the football season is on the horizon, so while we were in Las Vegas last month, we rode up and down the Las Vegas Strip and beyond to find out what's in store this season at the different sportsbooks. What we found was a mix of new openings, enhancements, contests and more that has us counting the hours until the first "real game" kicks off in just a couple weeks.

So, buckle up, break out your bankroll and start handicapping those match-ups. The greatest time of the year for a sports bettor is finally here and, as usual, there's plenty of action to be found in Las Vegas.

10. "Free Gridiron Glory Football Contest" from Station Casinos
We start with one of the lone free contests in Las Vegas that also includes postseason play. All contestants must be Station Casinos Boarding Pass Card members, and picks can be made at any Boarding Pass kiosk at Station Casino properties, which includes 17 properties through the state, such as The Palms Casino Resort, Palace Station Hotel and Casino, Red Rock Casino, Resort & Spa, Green Valley Ranch Resort, Spa and Casino and Wild Wild West Gambling Hall & Hotel.

Selections are not made against the spread, and there is a weekly prize pool of $15,000, with first place cashing in for 10 grand, as well as a season-long contest that entails "qualifying" for the playoffs and then competing for another $50,000 in prizes with the winner receiving $25,000.

9. "Pick the Pros" Contest by Boyd Gaming
While the Station Casino contest is in just its third season of existence, "Pick the Pros" calls itself "Las Vegas' longest-running free football contest."

The Orleans, Gold Coast Hotel and Casino, Suncoast Hotel and Casino, Sam's Town Hotel & Gambling Hall, California Hotel & Casino, Fremont Hotel & Casino and Main Street Station Casino Brewery and Hotel will jointly give away a total of over $500,000 in prize money over the 17 week football season. Each week $30,000 is awarded, with a minimum $10,000 guaranteed top prize each week. This is a weekly contest, and like "Gridiron Glory" selections are not made against the spread.

8. "Gridiron Maiden Football Contest" at the Hard Rock
The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino - Las Vegas is running its Gridiron Maiden Football Contest. Beginning 6 September, players can win a share of $1,000 every week in free slot play. You must be a Backstage Pass Club member, and your number of picks is based on a tier level. Every Wednesday through Saturday, players can earn 250 base slot points or $25 in table credit for additional picks.

7. William Hill's College & Pro "Pick'em Contests"

William Hill offers two contests each year. For the "Pro Pick'em," players try to select the straight-up winners of each NFL Sunday for 17 weeks. The fee is $25 per player with a maximum of four entries per person. Over/unders are added to bring the total number of selections to 15 during weeks where there are not 15 games on Sunday and Monday. The winner each week wins $10,000. In addition, there is a season-long contest in which first place takes home $20,000, with second ($7,500) and third place ($2,500) also cashing in. There is also a bonus prize pool worth $100,000 that is split between and players who pick 200 or more winners over the course of the season, which averages out 11.7 wins per week.

The second annual "College Pick'em Contest" follows a similar format, but the cost per entry rises to $500. The contest involves selecting seven college football games against the spread each week for 10 weeks, beginning 8 September 2017 and ending 11 November. The top 10 finishers win money, with first place taking half of the total entry fees collected, second place winning 15% and third place 10%. A grand prize pool of $25,000 is set aside for players who can pick 49 or more winners, which means you would have to average nearly a 5-2 record on your seven picks each week.

Last year's inaugural contest drew 162 players. The winner compiled a 44-26 record and cashed check worth $56,700. Two players tied for second place at 43-27, earning $12,150 each.

The guaranteed prize pool for last year was $25,000, plus 100% payback and this year it has been increased to $75,000, plus 100% payback.

6. Golden Nugget's "Friday Football Showdown"
While the free and relatively low-entry-fee contests around town are geared toward the public players, most of the other contests cost a decent chunk of change to enter, and with that comes "life-changing" prize pools, and a swarm of professional sports bettor among those competing.

At $2,000 per entry, the Golden Nugget - Las Vegas's "Friday Football Showdown" has the second-highest fee in the city (more on No. 1 later in this column). For the first 12 weeks of the football schedule, each contestant makes seven selections against the spread, from NFL and college football sides and totals. Each winning selection is worth one point, with a tied selection earning a half point. After 12 weeks, the top 16 contestants advance to the second round and a head-to-head bracket portion of the contest, which begins with Week 13 of the NFL schedule and decides the overall champ.

Everyone who makes the final 16 wins $3,000. The four top-seeded contestants will receive an additional $3,000, and the top-seed receives an additional $2,000. From there, the winner of each head-to-head matchup in the first and second elimination rounds wins $1,000.

The remaining money in the prize pool is distributed to the champion (50%), runner-up (25%), the two semifinal losers (5% each) and four quarterfinal winners (2.5% percent each). There is also a Mini-Contest held between Weeks 10-12, with the winner taking 5%.

This is the fourth year the Golden Nugget has hosted the contest. Last year it drew 97 players, but Sportsbook Director Tony Miller told us he's hoping for big surge this year.

"With the format change this year — adding the bracket format starting in week 13 — we have had a ton of good feedback," he said. "(As of Friday), we are at 31 entries, but the bust period for sign-ups is the two weeks prior to the start of the season. I’m hoping to get to at least 120 entries this year."

5. The Westgate "SuperContest" and "Gold Contest"
As we detailed last year, the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino hosts the mother of all football contests with its aptly named "SuperContest."
Last year, it drew an all-time high for the seventh straight season, with 1,854 competitors throwing $1,500 into the pot, leading to a local Starbucks barista winning the first-place prize of $907,699. From 2004 to 2010, the average number of contestants was around 386, with a high of 505 in 2005. In 2011, the number increased to 517 and has mushroomed each year since.

It appears the record for number of entrants will be broken again this year as sign-ups were on a ridiculous pace as of last week, with almost double the amount of entrants it had at this time last year. That makes it a safe bet that there will be at least 2,071 entrants, meaning the winner will receive more than $1 million.

The Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino is also running a new "Gold Contest" this year for the first time, using the same format as the "SuperContest" with each player picking five NFL games each week of the regular season against the spread, but with an entry fee of $5,000, making it the richest of its kind in town. As of last week, there were around a dozen sign-ups for the winner-take-all contest.

(UPDATE: Jay Kornegay, the SuperBook's vice president of race and sports operations, told Casino City that as of Tuesday the SuperContest had 798 entrants and the Gold Contest had 19)

As a primer for both contests, the sixth annual SuperContest Weekend will be held 17-19 August and includes sports-betting seminars and a golf tournament.

At 30,000 square feet, the Westgate SuperBook is the largest of its kind in the world and is a must-visit for any sports bettor. Earlier this month it opened a new enclosed smoking area and the former Sports Deli at the back of the book has been updated and renamed, Drafts Sports Bar & Grill.

4. Mobile app update
The introduction of mobile sports apps in Nevada has exploded over the last few years, accounting for more than half the overall handle at many sportsbooks.

CG Technology, which operates nine sportsbooks in Nevada, including The Venetian Las Vegas, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and M Resort, was at the forefront of this technology, and launched an updated version of its app on July 10 for an improved player experience and easier-to-use interface. The major change was chopping down the number of steps it takes to actually place a bet. The previous version required as many as eight clicks, but now CG Technology players have to make just three clicks to finalize a wager. The in-game offerings have also been enhanced and the time it takes to download the app has been improved upon.

"It's easier on the eye and easier to use," said Jason Simbal, CG Technology's VP of Risk Management. "We looked at some of the best mobile sportsbook apps in the world and tried to incorporate all of the best aspects of each one. So far, the reviews have been favorable."

And while nothing has officially been announced, we were told that Caesars Entertainment properties will be launching a sportsbook app in conjunction with Stadium Technology Group very soon, and USFantasy, the new pari-mutuel odds format available in the state, will launch its mobile app sometime in September. Stay tuned.

3. The Cromwell introduces sports betting

As we reported last week, The Cromwell, a Caesars Entertainment property on The Strip, has introduced a number of new amenities, including a new sportsbook. We can hardly wait to plop down and stare at the state-of-the-art 32-foot-long-by-9-foot-tall video wall, featuring the Strip's first and only 1.8 millimeter pixilation. It will be visible throughout most all of the casino floor, which is now chock full of player-friendly gaming options.

2. New sportsbook at Encore
Like The Cromwell, up until recently, Encore Resort was one of the very few Strip properties not to offer sports betting. Last week, the Wynn sister property opened a new sportsbook venue, meaning its guests don't have to leave or walk next door to the Wynn to make a wager.

Located adjacent to Encore Players Lounge and Surrender Nightclub, it offers three betting stations, 21 TVs and seats with USB ports and multimedia capabilities.

1. Wynn renovates sportsbook

Remember that Verizon TV commercial that boasted "the best network just got better," featuring Jamie Foxx. Well, that's how I feel about what Wynn Las Vegas just did to its sportsbook.

The book at The Wynn has always been a favorite of mine, so with the massive renovation that was unveiled earlier this month, it will most likely remain in my Top 3, along with Westgate and The Venetian.

This is a venue that already had tremendous sight lines and exceptional service, so with the addition of an impressive 137-foot-by-11-foot, high-definition LED video wall, the Wynn will be one of the very first stops I make upon returning to Las Vegas this fall.
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