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Who wants to be a millionaire?

Two pro football contests in Las Vegas can make it happen, but sign-ups have been slower than usual due to COVID-19 concerns and fewer people traveling.

The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook and Circa Sports are both offering similar contests where the winners could become instant millionaires, but the SuperContest with a $1,500 entry fee only had 375 entries as of Monday after having about 2,000 at the same juncture last year.

The Circa Million costs $1,000 to enter and they had 523 entries through Monday of the guaranteed $3 million contest, meaning there’s a $2,477,000 overlay — the casino pays out the amount not covered by the entry fees.

“We announced the $3 million guarantee before the pandemic, but thought it was the natural progression for us after getting so many entries last season,” said Circa Sports director Matt Metcalf.

Last season, the Circa brand went all in with a pre-splash $1.5 million guarantee for the contest as a multifaceted marketing tool for the downtown resort scheduled on time to open October 28. People loved it all over the country. Anyone who bets sports regularly knows the Circa brand before they even opened because of the sportsbook and the contest.

So while the guarantee in 2019 was figured to be a marketing loss, they ended up getting more than the 1,500 entries to break even. They ended up getting 1,875 entries with the additional monies being added to the quarterly prizes.

The SuperContest has paid out over $32 million since its inception in 1989 and has become the national standard of the highest achievement in sports betting. It’s a badge of honor to win it and gives instant credibility to whoever does. Last year’s winner collected $1,469,644.80 and it was the eighth straight year they topped the previous year’s entries.

So if I’m the casual bettor who doesn’t bet a lot on games but has gathered together $1,500 to enter one of the two contests, I have a lot to decide upon here. I have to pick one. But the allure is winning big, being recognized, and alleviating some of the COVID-19 financial burdens the shutdown put on my family. I don’t like get-rich schemes but have gone on huge runs in the NFL in past years. Why not just one hot run against-the-spread picking five games a week for 17 weeks? But which one do I choose?

How about I wait until I see if there’s actually a season going to happen.

“A lot of people are just hesitant for fear of the season not being completed with COVID-19 shutting the league down,” SuperBook VP Jay Kornegay said.

The guy contemplating which contest to sign up for has never said never but when he saw the entire Las Vegas Strip shut down in mid-March, he knows anything can happen. Plus, it’s an election year. So what’s in the contest rules in case of a shutdown or shortened schedule?

“Our rules state that the season has to run at least 10 weeks, and it’s important to note that it’s not that each team has to play 10 games because with byes there would be quite a few teams with only nine games played,” Korn­egay said.

The Circa Million contest requires 12 weeks of play, but one of the reasons this regular Vegas guy was thinking the Circa Million first was because it was only $1,000 and he could stuff his betting bankroll with another $500. But the main reason was a $2.4 million overlay.

That overlay number is going to drop severely over the next three weeks and I wouldn’t be surprised if they got 3,000 entries to break even. They give you a commemorative limited edition Circa hat with each entry bought and if winning the $1 million first-place prize, they give you the coveted Circa Million blue blazer as a trophy like the Masters does with their green blazers for winning.

But the SuperContest has gifts too, and they last for the entire season and help alleviate lodging pains.

“It’s a different kind of year, that’s for sure,” said Kornegay. “In order to entice more football fans to join the SuperContest, we felt we needed to offer something more and that’s where the free rooms came from.”

Kornegay said the idea wasn’t his but it’s something the Westgate could do because of fewer people traveling to Las Vegas as most people believe their best situation is to stay away from everyone as much as possible. But two free rooms each week, what’s the catch?

“There’s no catch with the room guarantee,” Kornegay said. “It is what it is, two nights for each week of the football season with the one exception being New Years’ Eve being blocked from the promotion. It doesn’t matter how you do in the contest, the rooms are still in your back pocket.”

The Westgate had rooms available over Labor Day weekend for $131 per night and $91 for a later September weekend date so let’s just call it an easy $100 per day, twice a week, for 17 weeks which comes out to $3,400 in room fees that you don’t have to pay for because you entered the SuperContest for $1,500.

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The regular Vegas bettor thinks he can win each contest but when reality sets in that maybe he won’t, it becomes about bonuses. And if the SuperBook contest does have fewer entries this season which seems to be the case, this prospective contestant is thinking about the prestige of winning the most coveted handicapping title while going against fewer competitors. And he gets free rooms.

Ultimately, this casual bettor is like most of us and skeptical of everything these days, including the NFL season happening. But in the back of his mind he’s thinking owners like Jerry Jones will never let the season shutdown even if he has to recruit sitting college football seniors to play.

If the season is going to happen, why not enter both contests? He’s got $1,500, so in three weeks he can find $1,000 somewhere, even if it means chopping down his regular betting bankroll. They’ve got it all with incentives at each quarter that kind of gives new life to those after a bad start and the SuperBook is offering a $500 reboot for weeks 9-17 those in the contest wanting one more shot.

The SuperContest and Circa Million both allow three entries per person and folks from out of town can use a proxy service to turn in weekly picks after initially signing up in person. Those inside Nevada can make selections through their phone apps.

I recommend both these contests and wish you all good luck. The conglomeration of Las Vegas books and Las Vegas not reaching out to other states has been depressing, but Las Vegas still has two amazing big money contests that the new guys opening up all over the country aren’t willing to do yet.

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