08/01/2013 4:09PM

Dave Tuley: Vegas football contests in full swing


LAS VEGAS – Football season is here. Well, as I’ve written several times over the spring and summer, football hardly has an offseason anymore, with sports books posting their futures, over/under season win totals, and even “Games of the Year” point spreads earlier every year to keep up with the Joneses.

But for those Jonesing to bet on actual games that they can watch right away, we finally have action with the Hall of Fame Game this Sunday, with the Miami Dolphins a 2.5-point favorite over the Dallas Cowboys and a full NFL preseason slate next weekend.

That 2.5-point spread is typical for preseason football. Of the 14 games on the board for next weekend (the only ones not available for wagering are the two involving the Dolphins and Cowboys), the lines all range from pick ‘em (the Vikings hosting the Texans, though several books have the Vikes as a 1-point favorite) to minus-4 (the Browns over the Rams, the Lions over the Jets, and the Packers over the Cardinals).

You’ll rarely see any spreads higher during the preseason since the starters don’t play the full game and these are exhibitions, after all. I definitely advise a slow testing of the waters of preseason football instead of a full plunge.

This also is the time when people come to Vegas to sign up for football contests. I used to do this column every year in mid-August since that’s when the casinos used to roll out their contest rules and start sign-ups, but just like with the futures, that’s too long to wait nowadays.

The LVH has been taking entries for its SuperContest since July 1 and as of Wednesday night was approaching 80 entries at $1,500 apiece after having 20 at the end of July last year, when it went on to have a record 745 entrants. That was the second straight year with a 50 percent increase, and some are predicting it will crack the 1,000 barrier this year.

I’m a little skeptical, as I put the over/under at 900 because I think there will be a lot of people who jumped in last year who won’t re-up. But I could be wrong. I’ve been wrong before, as recently as last year, when I didn’t think it’d crack 700.

For the uninitiated, the SuperContest requires contestants to make five NFL picks each week against the contest spread by 11 a.m. Pacific on Saturday (or by kickoff of the Thursday game, if a player uses that game). With the growth of the contest, the LVH has increased the payout spots from 20 to 30, and it should take around 60 percent to cash.

The bonuses for picking 67 percent winners and the mini-contest over the final three weeks of the season also have been increased from $10,000 to $15,000. That bonus money is kicked in by the LVH as the entry fees go to the prize pool, with the champion receiving 30 percent (if 1,000 enter, that would be $1.5 million in the prize pool, with $450,000 to the champ).

A big bulk of the LVH’s entries are expected to come on its second annual SuperContest Weekend, Aug. 23-24, when it has seminars on that Friday night (yours truly will be part of a media panel at 6 p.m.), a golf outing Saturday and a drawing Saturday night. Five SuperContest entries will be given away over the weekend; see thelvh.com/supercontest for details.

Last year’s weekend was a big success, and that was with very little advance publicity, so the turnout should be a lot higher, and that could help them reach the 1,000 milestone. One thing working in the LVH’s favor is that all the other casinos that previously held high-end contests – most notably South Point, Stations, and Cantor Gaming – have backed out, leaving the LVH with a monopoly.

But if the LVH is Boardwalk and Park Place, the William Hill books are at least Marvin Gardens. While not competing in the high-rent district, William Hill has three football handicapping contests this year, including the biggest NCAA spread contest in town. The College Pick ’em has a $100 entry fee, with contestants making seven picks against the spread each week from a list of designated games, with a $5,000 weekly prize split among all those who have the best record, and a $10,000 prize for the best season record and paying through fifth place.

There also are prizes for the second-most winners each week and also the most losers. See williamhillus.com for full details. There is a limit of 10 entries per person, down from 25 last year, when there were some groups that could combine entries and guarantee a perfect card every week (and some 6-1s for smaller prizes).

(Sidebar: We hope one day to be reporting about the return of a high-end NCAA contest, but not enough of the public has demanded it yet. The problem is that a small group of bettors ask about it, but when Leroy’s had its $250 entry fee, it never reached even 400 entrants, so I can’t blame William Hill for going for the lower demographic and spreading the wealth.)

William Hill is reviving the Three ’N Out survivor-style NFL contest, for which the entry fee is $25, and you pick one game against the spread each week. As opposed to Station Casinos’s Last Man Standing, in which you’re one-and-done, you get three strikes before you’re out in the William Hill offering.

William Hill also has a $25-an-entry NFL contest that is similar to the ones at Stations and the Palms, with players just picking the games straight up, and the Boyd Gaming books have their free contest run through their player’s club kiosks. I certainly recommend these contests for not only locals but visitors to play when they come to town, as they pay a lot more (about $7,500 to $10,000, depending on the contest) than the vast majority of office pools.

At this point, I usually would direct you to my comprehensive list of the rules for the contests, but since not all of them have been released, I’ll save that for posting in the forums at ViewFromVegas.com in a few weeks.

Good luck, and see you in line for sign-ups for these contests.