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Bowl season kicks off Saturday and the opportunities for bettors to make money was never on the table like it is this year with several contests around town.

That means overlays everywhere with free money out there just waiting to be grabbed. In years past we’ve had only a couple of bowl contests. This year we have at least four with each one having its own niche.

There is a contest close to wherever you may live and really no reason for not trying to get some of that free cash yourself. Chances are you’ll be at a book sometime this week, so take a flyer on picking the games correctly. For a minimal entry fee, or in some cases free, you have an opportunity to start the New Year off with a bang.

If you live in North Las Vegas, you can enter Aliante Casino’s Bowl Blitz. If hailing from the East side, you can enter Sam’s Town’s Pick the Bowls contest, and if near Silverado Ranch, you’ve got the South Point.

Everywhere else, there is bound to be a William Hill sports book close by. The person with an hour or two to burn on the day could enter all of them, which would be a smart move.

The overlay on the guaranteed prize money means the books never see a dime out of the contest, and they do all the seeding. The South Point’s bowl contest has a $10 entry fee, picking only the last 16 games straight-up with no point spread.

They are offering $50,000 to whoever picks the most winners, and if the contest exceeds 5,000 entries – which I’d be surprised if it did, they’ll throw in the additional monies collected into the pool.

Las Vegas icon Jimmy Vaccaro tells us how the amazing $50,000 figure came about.

“I was talking to Michael Gaughan (South Point owner) about the structure and he asked me what I’d like to give, and I said $25,000 would be nice, and then he said okay, but let’s make it $50,000. So I guess you could say it’s a fan appreciation kind of thing.”

Yes, thank you Mr. Gaughan, we do feel appreciated with that kind of gesture and also like being able to enter at five additional locations linked to your book like both Cannery’s, Rampart, the Riverside in Laughlin and Virgin River in Mesquite.

Aliante sports book director Marc Nelson can’t match Mr. Gaughan’s bankroll, but he is offering $5,000, which is a pretty large some when considering it is just one property.

“The idea is about doing promotions for our book to get more people to visit us, to entice people who haven’t been to our beautiful property yet, while also rewarding those who do regularly play with us,” Nelson said. “We want everyone to have a great bowl season.”

Nelson’s contest costs $20 and is broken into four segments, picking games against the spread. He broke it up into segments not only to get return visits, but also to keep the integrity of the contest at its highest.

“I don’t want to have stale lines with people being forced into a selection because a game has run two or three points. I want the contestants to make educated picks at a good line.”

Nelson was actually one of the early pioneers of a bowl contest. In 1999, while running the Fiesta sports book for George Maloof, Nelson ran the memorable “Fiesta’s Got Big Bowls” contest, a name that Nelson gives full credit to Maloof. It was ahead of its time.

Since then, it’s hard to recall many others bowl contests around Las Vegas other than William Hill‘s last season, which makes it all the more odd that four different contests are being offered all of a sudden. But it may stem from the success William Hill had last year.

Hill’s $20,000, 20/20 College Bowl Challenge is where a $20 entry fee also gives contestants a chance to win $50,000 if hitting a perfect 20 out of 20 against-the-spread. Last year, they guaranteed $10,000, but it was so popular around the state the entries far exceeded the guarantee and the prize money jumped to $26,540, which was split by two contestants – one up in Reno and one down here – who both went 16-4.

Carol Boyd at Sam’s Town is putting $5,000 up for grabs in the “Pick The Bowls” contest and she’s not even charging anything for it. All a bettor has to do for up to five entries is gain points on the slots or make a $20 parlay of three teams or more. Contestants pick 15 games ATS and have until Dec. 31 to sign up.

That’s a lot of cash just waiting to find your wallets, and it’s the first of its kind at such large volume. So take advantage of it. The more success each property has with their contest, the better chance the gravy train stays alive and more books jump into the fray.

Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].

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