Updated on 09/15/2011 1:59PM

NFL contest fever - catch it!


If you're in Las Vegas and haven't signed up for any NFL contests yet, be prepared to wait in line this weekend. The last-minute rush will be heavy, as more than $3 million in prizes is up for grabs this football season.

Deadline for the most prestigious of the pay-for-play contests, the Las Vegas Hilton's Super Contest, is 1 p.m. Friday. The entry fee is $1,500, and as of noon Wednesday, 177 people had signed up to play for a first prize of $106,000. That prize is still growing, by the way, because the champion receives 40 percent of all entry fees. So the top prize would balloon to $120,000, if, say, 200 people participate. The Super Contest pays down to 20th place. Standings are posted each week in the Hilton's sports book and sheets are distributed each Friday afternoon with every contestant's selections.

Many other contests have deadlines this weekend (see chart for details), while some accept entries throughout the season for locals and tourists who want to take a shot at the weekly prizes which range from $1,000 to $40,000.

The most popular contests are the Great Giveaway at Station Casinos and the Pick the Pros at the Coast Resorts. With entries numbering in the tens of thousands, it's harder to win (lose more than one game and you've got no shot) but the payoffs are bigger with a single weekly winner at the Coast Resorts able to win $40,000 and a single weekly winner at Stations able to receive $25,000.

Free contests are becoming scarce, but the Stardust offers a $10,000 winner-take-all prize in its free weekly contest that includes a mix of college and pro games.

Some contests by invitation only

The Sunset Station All-Star Handicappers Contest starts Friday night with the same 12 analysts as there were in last year's field. Defending champion Mike Lee will take on 1999 champ Russ Culver, 1998 winner Tim Trushel, Scott Spreitzer, Bryan Leonard, Andy Iskoe, Bob Donahue, Glenn McGrew, Brent Crowe, Tom Stryker, Rob Veno, and Dr. Bob Stoll.

The contest takes place from 6-7 p.m. Fridays in the Sunset Station sports book and is broadcast live on KDWN AM-720. Contestants make six selections, including a best bet, on college or pro games. The top four finishers after 15 weeks will square off in Week 16 for the right to play for the $7,500 first prize in Week 17.

Drawings will be held at the end of each week's broadcast. Prizes include a buffet for two, a two-night stay at Sunset Station, a $50 bet on a "Ties Win" parlay card, a $150 bet on a "Ties Win" parlay card, and $300 to bet anyway you wish (except for both sides of the same game).

* The "Stardust Invitational" field is a work in progress as sports information director Joe Lupo and tournament host John Kelly are finalizing the field of 16. It's a single-elimination tournament in which two handicappers square off each week to pick seven games apiece in the race book and on the "Stardust Line" radio show (9-10 p.m. on KDWN). It's scheduled to begin Sept. 14 and run for 15 consecutive weeks. First prize is $10,000, and defending champion Dave Cokin will be taking on a field of mostly first-time starters.

Book Notes

* Laffit Pincay Jr., Thoroughbred racing's all-time winningest jockey, will meet fans and sign autographs from 12 to 2:30 p.m. Sept. 14 in the VIP race lounge at Bally's. Pincay also will handicap some races on the Fairplex card that day.

* Mandalay Bay has updated its odds to win the Breeders' Cup Classic, making Galileo the 5-2 favorite after the retirement of Point Given. Tiznow is the 3-1 second choice, followed by Albert the Great (7-2), and a "field" bet at 5-1. While Bally's future book (which is available at all other Park Place properties) has 63 horses listed and the Coast Resorts future book lists 44 horses, neither has a "field" bet. Galileo is also 5-2 at Coast Resorts, followed by Albert the Great at 4-1 and Tiznow at 5-1.

* For proof of how solid bookies can make NFL lines, look no further than the Imperial Palace's Week 1 lines posted in April. For the most part, the lines are on the mark today, within two points of the Stardust's opening numbers for Week 1 that came out nearly five months later.

The four notable exceptions are the Patriots-Bengals, Bills-Saints, Bucs-Cowboys, and Redskins-Chargers. In the spring, the IP made the Patriots a 2 1/2-point favorite over the Bengals, but now the game is pick-'em. The Bills were -4 before, but opened -1 (and by Wednesday the Saints had become the favorite). The the Bucs were 7-point faves in the spring, but opened at 9 1/2, and the Redskins were a 1-point choice before but by Wednesaday the Chargers were favored by 2 1/2.

The Super Bowl line at the IP opened with the AFC -1 with an over-under total of 48, and it has been bet to AFC -2 with a total of 47.