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Avoid The Late Rush For Football Contests

23 August 2000

by Jeff Haney

LAS VEGAS , Nevada – Aug. 23, 2000 --To avoid lines stretching from here to Tonopah, local residents should sign up now for the always-popular football contests offered by Las Vegas sports books.

As the season's opening kickoff nears, the crush at the counter becomes more intense -- especially for the free and low-entry fee contests available around town.

"I would advise people to register as soon as possible, because it's only going to get busier in here," said Ray Spaulding, sports book supervisor at the Stardust, which brings back its free "All-American" football contest this year.

The Stardust All-American, the city's most prominent free contest, will again award a $15,000 weekly prize to the entrant(s) who predict the most straight-up winners (no point spreads). Up to 17 games a week, college and pro, will be featured.

Spaulding reminded customers they can also sign up at any affiliated Boyd property, including Sam's Town, Fremont, California, Eldorado, Jokers Wild or Main Street Station.

Here's a roundup of this year's Las Vegas casino football contests, by category. ....

INVITATIONALS: The Sunset Station All-Star Handicappers invitational, which has consistently pulled big crowds to the Henderson resort, is back for a fourth season.

This year 12 handicappers will give out six picks apiece -- college or pro, sides or totals -- each Friday night.

"We have four new contestants, and it's going to be very interesting to see how they do in their first year of competition," said contest host Shaun Hess.

They join defending champ Russ Culver, Andy Iskoe, Brian Leonard, Tim Trushel, Scott Spreitzer, Glen McGrew, Bob Stoll and Mike Lee. A $5,000 prize and other bonuses are at stake.

Also back is the Stardust invitational, a single-elimination tournament featuring bettors, oddsmakers and celebrities in a head-to-head competition. Last year's event featured a $10,000 winner-take-all prize.

This season's full lineup has not been revealed yet, although it appears radio personality Papa Joe Chevalier will return to try to defend his title.

One newcomer to the Stardust invitational is famed blackjack author Stanford Wong, who is turning his attention to sports betting this year.

FOR-A-FEE CONTESTS: The Las Vegas Hilton "SuperContest" carries a $1,500 entry fee and purports to decide the title of world's best football handicapper. Entrants pick five pro games a week -- sides only, no totals -- and the winner takes home at least $150,000 (based on 250 entries), according to the official rules.

The Stratosphere's "World Handicapping Professional Football Contest" has a $1,000 entry fee and gives entrants a theoretical $100,000 bankroll from which they can wager $1,100 to $11,000 per game. First place takes 50 percent of the prize money, with a $200,000 prize pool guaranteed.

The second annual "Gridiron Growler" at Barley's casino is $200 to enter and features pro and college games against the spread. All entry fees go to prizes, with the winner taking 50 percent.

Bally's "The Eliminator" is $50 to enter. Contestants predict one game a week and advance only if their pick is correct. Last year's winner-take-all prize was more than $12,000.

Station Casinos' "Great Giveaway" and Coast Resorts' "Pick the Pros" each have a $25 entry fee. Contestants pick pro games straight-up and compete for weekly and season-long prizes. Each contest boasts more than $1.2 million in total prize money.

Sign up for the Great Giveaway at Palace, Boulder, Texas or Sunset Station, or the Wild Wild West; and for Pick the Pros at Barbary Coast, Gold Coast, the Orleans or the Plaza.

FOR-FREE CONTESTS: In addition to the Stardust, free contests are offered at Arizona Charlie's ($5,000 weekly prize) and the Stratosphere (also $5,000, with free T-shirts to first 2,000 entrants).

ON THE MARC: It has been said oddsmakers construct NFL lines with the goal of beating professional bettors, with one exception -- the line on the Super Bowl, which is designed to beat the public.

Veteran handicapper Marc Lawrence has no argument with that idea.

Lawrence is bemused to no end by the casual bettors who approach him, even at this time of year, asking who's going to win the Super Bowl.

"The only thing I can tell them is 'who cares?' " the Ohio-based Lawrence said during a visit to Las Vegas last week. "The last thing on my mind right now is which team is going to win on Super Bowl Sunday."

Lawrence noted that serious sports bettors look at the Super Bowl as one game, or one "play," in a season filled with hundreds, in many cases thousands, of plays.

The public takes the opposite outlook, viewing the Super Bowl as either a "get-even" game or a chance to parlay the season's winnings into one huge score.

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