08/09/2012 4:31PM

Tuley: Football contests on the decline at Las Vegas sports books

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LAS VEGAS – For those looking to enter football contests here this year, I’ve got good news and bad news.

First, the bad news. We’ve lost a number of contests in recent years through attrition (the casinos feeling they weren’t getting enough return for their marketing buck and dropping them) and consolidation of casino ownership. Longtime readers of this column will know this is the time of year where I recap all the offerings around town with a complete list of rules. Well, only the SuperContest at the LVH (formerly the Hilton) had published and distributed its full rules as of Wednesday, when I made my rounds of the sports books in town, so I’ll just compile that list in the coming weeks on my ViewFromVegas.com website.

But trust me when I say that the list is going to be half of what we’d had in recent years. On the high end, we’re losing the Cantor High Stakes Football Contest, which had a $100,000 entry fee two years ago and drew only seven entrants, and then dropped to a $10,000 entry fee last year and had only 15. It’s been dropped altogether this year and joins recent defunct contests such as the $2,500 buy-in Friendly Frank’s Contest at the South Point (last run in 2010) and $1,000 contest called The Challenge at the Station Casinos (last run in 2009).

The most recent consolidation came last month when British bookmaking giant William Hill completed its purchase of three Nevada sports book chains: Leroy’s, Lucky’s and Cal Neva. Leroy’s had a $250 buy-in Pro Challenge, $250 buy-in College Challenge, and a $25 Three N Out contest. Lucky’s had a progressive pool, while Cal Neva had a $20 entry contest for both college and pro. After the merger, they now have a $100 buy-in College Pick’em contest and a $25 Pro Pick’em.

But enough of the bad news as there’s good news in the William Hill offerings as well.

The College Pick’em, which requires contestants to pick seven games against the spread for 10 Saturdays starting Sept. 8, has a $100,000-guaranteed prize pool. There are up to 25 entries allowed per person. The overall champion’s share is $10,000 and the contest pays through fifth place, but there also are more ways to cash. There is a $5,000 first-place prize every week with $2,500 for the second-most winners as well as a $500 prize for the fewest winners. There also is a $1,000 season-long prize for least winners.

The Pro Pick’em is more in line with the traditional $25 entry fee contests that have been offered in Vegas at the local casinos runs by Station Casinos and Boyd Gaming, with players picking all NFL games each week with no point spread. That contest has total prizes of $500,000, with the champion winning $20,000 plus an all-expense paid trip to London for the NFL’s game there in 2013 (the trip is valued at $10,000, though the winner can opt for an additional $2,000 in cash if he doesn’t want to take the trip). The weekly prize is $15,000, with a $5,000 second-place prize and $1,000 for least winners. All in all, a solid first-time offering.

The Palms is going to still offer its $25 buy-in Pigskin Payoff contest, even though the book is now leased out to Cantor Gaming. This is a personal favorite of mine because I’ve twice won the $10,000 weekly prize, so I would have hated to see this one go by the wayside. Rules were expected to be posted Friday.

But in the midst of all these changes and uncertainty, the best news of all continues to be the growth of the SuperContest. Last year, it attracted a record 517 entrants at $1,500 apiece, and with the contest receiving much more attention on social media (and the loss of competing contests in town) it has a great chance to approach 600 this year.

And the LVH has added a SuperContest Weekend on Aug. 24 -25 with a handicapping seminar, golf outing, and five drawings for free SuperContest entries.

The seminar, which will be free and open to the public in the G Ballroom at LVH, will start at 6:30 p.m. on Friday night, Aug. 24, with panels on college and pro football handicapping sandwiched around a “Media & the SuperContest” panel that I’ll be moderating with Chad Millman, editor-in-chief of ESPN the Magazine and writer of the “Behind the Bets” sports betting blog and podcasts on ESPN.com, and past SuperContest champions Steve Fezzik (back-to-back winner in 2008 and 2009) and Brady Kannon (whose group won $310,200 for first place last year plus a $10,000 bonus for topping 67 percent).

The golf outing on Saturday takes place at the Las Vegas Country Club, across the street from the LVH SuperBook, and costs $95, which includes green fees, cart, driving range, box lunch, and two drawing tickets. There also is a closest-to-the-hole contest with a car prize for a hole-in-one.

For the drawing after the golf outing, SuperContest entrants earn five drawing tickets per entry (limit of two) if they register beforehand, and you also can get a drawing ticket for every $25 Super Bowl future-book ticket (limit of five).

The only downside of this promotion is that this replaces the Pick the Ponies summer horse handicapping tournament, which has been held the last five years, usually the weekend of Del Mar’s Pacific Classic. The summer Pick the Ponies never proved as popular or drew full fields of 200 like the other PTP tourneys do during Derby Week and Breeders’ Cup Week.