Tuesday, August 25, 2009

There's No Place Like Vegas for Football Season

by Micah Roberts
Gaming Today

The football season has begun in Las Vegas, which is unlike any other football city in America because of the emphasis the casinos place on making the action as exciting as any college tailgate party or NFL stadium.

It’s a time of year in which each casino attempts to out-market the competition, making their promotions the most attractive, which will hopefully maximize traffic through the doors.

The sports betting business is definitely larger during football season, even though revenue figures pale in comparison to what the overall casino takes in. However, the traffic driven to a casino by the football games on a typical weekend spills over onto the table games, slot machines and food and beverage outlets, making it a catalyst for other areas of the casino.

Casino promotions range from food and drink specials and football parties, to special handicapping contests, unique parlay cards, innovative prop and fantasy bets and space-age devices designed to enhance the betting experience, such as M Resort’s "in-running" betting computers, which open a whole new realm for bettors.

Some casinos have taken it up a notch with their facilities and how the game is presented to their customers. For instance, some casinos christen sports "cathedrals" with their high-tech video displays, lounges, private boxes, bottle service and catered food, and they will even place televisions around the table games to keep the players in touch with the action.

Station Casinos this season is setting up their viewing parties within all of their massive sports books, which are some of the greatest viewing screens ever created for sports viewing. They are adding a nice mix to each week of the regular football season by offering $1 hot dogs and Budweiser. Yes, one U.S. dollar, all day long, for all season long. It’s quite a deal, and with all the savings, it leaves a few extra bucks for the important things like betting.

The Stratosphere, appropriately, takes football action to new heights with parties set up for its showroom.

"Every Sunday through the football season we will be opening up our showroom with big screen TV’s and show all the morning and afternoon games," said Stratosphere Race and Sports Book Director Ed Malinowski. "We have the ability to accommodate up to 600 people and seat them comfortably in table and booth seating, which make it more comfortable if you’re with a group of friends as opposed to makeshift row seating."

In addition to food and drink specials, Malinowski said they will have four convenient bet stations located outside the room. They are also offering an added bonus this season for guests checking into the hotel who will get a selection card for games. If they’re winning pick is selected in a drawing, their stay in the hotel will be free.

The Las Vegas Hilton’s Super Book is appropriately named, especially during the football season. With its expansive wagering menu already reason enough to visit the Super Book on Sunday’s, its Football Central is a great place to watch all the games in a raucous smoke-free environment.

"If you have never been to Football Central, you really need to check it out," said Super Book Executive Director Jay Kornegay, "It‘s truly a great environment with betting available, drink and food specials, former football player appearances signing autographs, and loads of prizes given away for simply being there."

Football Central has a capacity of 1,500 guests with large screens set up so the action isn’t missed anywhere you choose to sit.

Regardless of which sports book in Las Vegas you visit, you’ll sense an excitement and eagerness as customers anticipate the upcoming season.

"There is a massive turnaround in business going from baseball season to football for us," said South Point’s veteran Sports Book Director Bert Osborne. "Everything is on a larger scale for football from the crowds – the volume of actions, and then the decisions. Everyone has just been waiting for this to start after a long, hot summer and there is something about football that stirs up an enormous amount of energy with the players."

Las Vegas Football Contests Have Something for Everyone

by Micah Roberts
Gaming Today

Football contests sponsored by Las Vegas casinos are a huge attraction to players during football season, partly because there is such a huge overlay, meaning that the casinos pay more out than they take in.

These contests range from weekly "freebies" to high-stakes affairs with buy-ins of $1,500 to $2,500 and more. Nonetheless, they might be the best value in Las Vegas for the guests because it remains one of the only consistently accepted loss leaders that the big casino bosses keep intact.

Most of these contests around town range from being free to $25 and the often encourage and reward multiple entries.

The minimal entry fee contests seem to be popular with everyone. Most of them don’t have point spreads and it’s all about picking the NFL winners, which can be more difficult than it seems. Everyone has an equal opportunity, so whether the entrant actually handicaps the teams or uses a strategy by picking colors or choosing their favorite city, it’s wide open.

For the serious handicapper who prides himself on being better than most in picking winners against the spread, there are several high-end contests in Las Vegas – usually against the world’s top experts.

Another reason these high-stakes contests have become popular over the last decade is because there’s a smaller pool of players to go against, coupled with a high reward for beating them.

Another attraction to the high-end contests is they are often highly publicized around the betting world and they attract some of the best handicappers in the business. Recreational bettors are always intrigued to see who is documented by the contest as being the best and what their selections are from week to week.

Some of the players who have done well in these contests have actually gone on to have successful handicapping services using that publicity to spur their business.

Here’s a closer look at the upper-end football contests in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas Hilton Super Contest -Entry fee $1,500
This is the grandfather of all the high end contests and the one that started it all in Las Vegas.
The base format is relatively unchanged with five mandatory pro football selections each week against the spread, with all entries, fees returned as prize money. But Hilton Super Book Executive Director Jay Kornegay saw a need to make a subtle change this year.

"Our objective was to generate more than the 350 entries we had last season," Kornegay said, "and one small change could help, which is pushing back the contest entry deadline of Friday to Saturday at 11 a.m. We may have hindered ourselves in maximizing entries in the past with the nine to fivers who want to go to a book after work on a Friday, handicap, have a beer, and unwind."

This will be Kornegay’s fifth year running the contest, which pays out to the top 20, with the winner getting $220,000. The Super Contest also offers bonuses totaling up to $20,000 paid out of their own pocket: $10,000 will be guaranteed to the best record over the last three weeks of the season for all entrants that sign up before Sept.7. The other bonus of $10,000 goes to contestants who can hit 67% or higher for the season.

"It seems like a really tough achievement," Kornegay said, "but we’ve paid the bonus in two of the last five years."

South Point Friendly Frank’s Pro Challenge: Entry Fee $2,500
This will be the third year the South Point will be offering the high end contest. This is another contest that has a huge overlay possibility. They are guaranteeing $250,000 in prize money regardless if they get the 100 entries it would take to pay for the contest. All additional entry fees are paid out to the top four finishers, with the winner guaranteed $100,000.

Another attraction to this contest is the bonus of $50,000 to contestants who win at a 65% clip or better for the year. All weekly entries must be submitted by 2 p.m. on Saturday.

M Resort Football Contest: Entry Fee: $3,000
Opened last March, M Resort is the newcomer on the block, but they’re doing everything to catch the neighbors’ attention. This contest has the highest entry fee of all the high end contests in Las Vegas. Only 30 entries will be taken for the contest with a $100,000 prize pool.

One of the major differences between M’s contest and some of the others is that they require contestants to pick three pro games and three college games against the spread. Each week, the full schedule of games will be used with about 15 college games offered to choose from.

To entice players to sign up early, the M is offering an early-bird bonus of a $2,000 two-team Super Bowl parlay to entrants who sign up before Aug. 29.

Station Casinos: The Challenge: Entry fee: $500
The Station’s high end contest made a few changes, and they are very player friendly, with virtually no risk for the player. The contest entry has been dropped to $500 from the $1,000 entry fee of the past, but in the new format, Stations will give back all of the all entry fee for just turning in your selections all 17 weeks. Just play every week and it’s basically a free roll.

On top of the free-roll, Stations will also place $100 into your sports connection account should you turn in selections for all 17 weeks. They are basically paying the guest $100 to hold your money for 17 weeks and ensure you make a weekly visit each week of the football season.

The top prize for winning is a guaranteed $25,000. Second place is $10,000, with third place taking $5,000. They also have a $10,000 bonus for the best record in the four week mini-contest. Another bonus of $50,000 is offered for contestants who can pick at a 67% clip or better.

The concept remains the same. Make five selections each week with the weekly pro football games and two selected college games. Updated standings are posted each week in the book.

The new changes are fantastic and very player friendly, equally for the recreational bettor and sharp players alike.

LeRoy’s Pro and College Challenge: Entry Fee: $250 each
The sports book with multiple locations throughout Nevada has a couple of mid-range priced contests that appeal to both college and NFL football handicappers. Each contest entry fee is $250 with all prize money returned to the players.

The lower price and mix of both college and pro action make this a very attractive opportunity for both the serious handicapper and the recreational bettor. In each contest, the top 40 finishers win prize money, which is dictated by the amount of entrants. If 400 entries are signed up, first place will net $30,000.

Players can buy up to five entries per person for each league. In the college format, the entrant must select seven games a week against the spread. Deadline for entries is Friday, Sept. 4.

In the pro format, the entrant must select five games a week and the deadline to sign-up is Saturday, Sept. 12.

Cal Neva Gridiron Gold: Entry Fee: $250
All entry fees will be returned in this contest that asks you to make five selections a week against the spread. With an estimated 650 entries expected, $162,500 in cash would be available for the prize pool.

Most of the Cal Neva casinos are in the 26 Northern Nevada locations, but entries may be taken to Casino Valle Verde in Henderson near Sunset Station.

In addition to the high-end contests, the "one and done" or elimination contests have become very popular with players.

Elimination Contests

Station Casinos: Last Man Standing Entry fee: $25
Station sports books have made the college version of Last Man Standing and the pro version available at all Fiesta and Station properties. Both of these contests have been wildly popular in the Las Vegas Valley because all entry fees are returned to the winner and the volume of players has made the top prize very beefy, increasing each year since the contest began.

In both versions, you can buy four entries and get one free. Make one selection against the spread per week. If you win, you advance to the next week, until there is ultimately one contestant remaining.

An added bonus this season is an extra $100,000 dangling out there should someone happen to win both. It may seem like a tall task, but last season there was one player around Las Vegas that won several of the contests, so it can be done.

LeRoy’s Horse and Sports Place : Three-n-Out Entry fee: $25
This is an interesting King of the Hill type format that asks the contestant to make one selection a week playing pro games using either a side or a total. The concept is simple: keep picking winners and you advance to the following week; as a bonus, you get three losses until you’re out.

This is a very affordable contest that can actually stretch your $25 buy-in a long way in entertainment value. It’s also very convenient because LeRoy’s are everywhere in Nevada. All entry fees are returned and whoever is the final contestant without losing three times wins it all.

An added bonus is if you should be so unlucky to lose your first three weeks, it’s an automatic comp entry into the mid-season contest.

Finally, the bread-and-butter of the football contests are the "no spread" contests that simply require the player to pick the outright winners. These attract the most interest and create the largest crowds in the sports books.

Coast Resorts : Pick the Pro’s Football Contest: Entry fee: FREE!
What if I said there was a weekly contest offering $30,000 in prize money and there were eight locations across the Vegas Valley where you could sign up and turn in your weekly picks? That’s an easy sell, right? What if I added it was free? Would that be of interest?

That’s exactly what Coast Resorts is offering. They also give everyone who signs up three free entries. They don’t place any conditions on the free entry other than signing up for their players club card, which is free too.

If you already have a Coast Club players card, you can register at PickthePros.com which will also make you eligible for sweepstakes prizes available for only those online entries. During the season, you can also check the weekly winners to see if you rank with your selections. Sign-ups have already begun and there is no cut off date since the prizes are weekly. Over $500,000 in cash prizes are up for grabs. Did I mention it was free?

Station Casinos: Great Giveaway: Entry fee: $25
This staple of Las Vegas contests is a weekly no-points contest that is offering $1.4 million in cash prizes with weekly prizes and end of season prizes. As always, if you buy two entries, you get one free. Players who have points on their Boarding Pass card may also use them to purchase entries.

Continuing with the Great Giveaway’s long-time tradition, most wins for the season wins a house, or you can take $100,000.

The contest remains unique because you can also challenge for picking the most losers, which has a grand prize of $100,000.

The weekly prizes are $20,000 for the winners and $10,000 for the losers. For the winners, you have the option of taking a brand new Ford F150 pickup truck instead of the $20,000.

Palms - Pigskin Payoff: Entry Fee: $25
This contest has been attractive over the years because of the small pool of contestants, compared to the contests offered by the multi-property chains. If you buy three entries, the Palms will give you three more for free. In addition, if you sign up before September 3, you’ll be given $10 in slot play.

This is a no spread contest, just pick the winners for weekly prizes of $15,000 and $10,000 guaranteed to one winner. End of season prizes total $100,000. When comparing the overall prizes for all the no spread contests, the Palms prizes are pretty large.

Lucky’s Race and Sports Books Progressive Parlay Card
Last season, one of the more creative features a sports book offered was Lucky’s progressive parlay card, which begins at $6,000 and increases $6,000 each week until someone finally hits it. The big pay day finally came at Terrible’s in Las Vegas where the Lucky winner took home $48,000.

The parlay card is simple. All you have to do is sign up to be eligible for making an entry. It requires 16 selections being made with no point spread. Should you get all 16 games correct, you win the weekly progressive pool wherever it stands. The best part about the progressive format is that it is 100% FREE! It doesn’t get much cheaper than that, and the overlay is through the roof on this one.

"We got some great response from the players last year," said Lucky’s Sports Book Director Jimmy Vaccaro, "so we expanded upon that success and added a consolation prize this year for the players that come just short of going 16-0."

The progressive parlay cards come out every Tuesday and are available at all 12 Nevada Lucky’s locations spread throughout Laughlin, Primm, Las Vegas, Pahrump, Carson City, Reno, and Elko.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Delaware and Legal Sports Betting Good: NFL Doesn't Agree

by M Roberts

Ever since the 1958 NFL Championship game, which was the initial beginnings to televised Pro Football as we know it today, the league has taken all measures possible to distance itself from sports gambling. That game was broadcast to a nationally televised audience by NBC and went into sudden death overtime in what is regarded as “The Greatest Game ever Played”.

The unofficial hush-hush reports from bookmakers across the major cities in America at the time was that business was huge and created whole new wave of new clients. At the same time, it also created a broad new interest for a league that lagged far behind baseball in popularity.

The point spread on the game was Baltimore around four points, give or take a half point. The alleged story goes that Colts owner Carroll Rosenbloom had a large bet on the game and informed his Head Coach, Weeb Ewbank, to not kick a field goal in sudden death, keep the drive alive, and get the touchdown so he could cover the spread rather than the easy field goal.
Johnny Unitas keeps them going and Alan Ameche goes in for the one yard dive to give the Colts a 23-17 victory, but even more important to the many new bettors out there, they covered.

The alleged story was kept very quiet at the time, maybe by the league itself and also a combination of not having today’s modern era of investigative, sensationalized media. However, many years later, the story did come out and the league was quick to refute the speculation and the source.

They have an image to protect, and rightfully so. They need the public to know that the integrity of their sport will never be compromised by someone being in on a fix whether it’s shaving points, throwing a game, or just betting on games period.

The league has gone so far in the past as to protect their integrity that they have suspended two of its star players for wagering. In 1963, Paul Hornung and Alex Karras were suspended for a year because of betting on games and associating with known gamblers.

Sports betting and Pro Football go hand in hand whether the NFL wants to admit it or not. Betting on sports, illegally and legally, is a massive market. Part of that allure and attraction by fans to the NFL is because of people all over the country, and now the world, have a little action on the games.

Blowout games still have interest for many because of the point spread or game totals. Against the wishes of the league, Al Michaels on Sunday and Monday Night Football telecasts has always gave the wink-wink hint near the end of games signifying if a game was truly “Over” or not.

Fantasy Football and bet pools all across the country are forms of gambling that have kept the league thriving because of the fans strong enough interest and willingness to spend some of their hard earned money in any form due to their fondness of the game.

The NFL even offers a fantasy football page on their official web-site that allows fans to pick their rosters and form leagues while they keep track of all the stats. Very convenient for the fan for sure, but very na├»ve of the league to think fantasy footballers aren’t wagering.

In recent years the league has vigorously gone after Las Vegas and other legal Nevada sports books in a move to further disassociate themselves from gambling. Despite a willingness to pay the enormous Super Bowl television advertising fees, the NFL will not let any Las Vegas commercials air on their featured broadcasts.

Some of the other threats that the league has done to Vegas ranges from breaking up Super Bowl Parties in Vegas and mandating DirecTV charge an absurd amount for their Sunday Ticket packages. They have also sent NFL agents to sports books in hopes of finding any kind of infringement of NFL trade marks, logos, or team names being used.

The ironic part about the league’s dislike for Vegas is that it’s legal. It’s not an illegal operation like the many off-shore sports books that have rented out booths in the Super Bowl fan fests every year. If anything, the league should be going after those operations in the Caribbean with all their mite. Any funds that are wagered there, stay there and are not taxed.

The NFL also doesn’t understand how regulated a legal sports betting operation is in Nevada. If there is any semblance of a fix going on in any sport, Nevada knows first and reports the irregular activities. College scandals at Arizona State and in the MAC conference have all been uncovered and reported to the NCAA. If Nevada were not around as a police agency and suspect bets were taken by Vinnie the bookie, no one would ever know. You think Vinnie is going to reveal his operation and cooperate?

The NFL’s new venture in their stance against gambling is attempting to stop legalized wagering on their events in Delaware, in particular single-game wagering.

Delaware recently passed a bill that would allow for sports betting on professional teams. Only four states have that grandfathered ability, Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana, as a result of legislation passed in 1992. All 50 states had the ability to ask for the right to be placed on the bill at the time, when only Nevada was looking to exercise their right into business practice.

Of the four states permitted, only Nevada has a special exception made for them that would allow for single-game wagering while the other states can offer pools, lotteries, or parlays on the pro games. Delaware recently changed verbiage within their legislation and wishes to offer single-game wagers at their area casinos and race tracks.

The NFL has now countered and filed papers with the Delaware Supreme Court to stop the single-game betting with hopes that Delaware’s recent amendments somehow goes against the state’s constitution.

Come on NFL, lighten up. Delaware sports betting regulations will be just as good as Nevada’s and maybe even stronger because of their infancy stage. More east coast money will be bet legally, more taxes will be paid, and best of all, more money stays in the United States.

It’s obvious the leagues concern isn’t about keeping the money in the states as evident by how they have shopped our greatest game, the Super Bowl, all over the world along with the giant voided economic impact it has on any American city that doesn’t get it.

It’s likely that this is all a show and an exhibition of showing everyone, and it’s players, just how hard a stance the league takes against gambling on their sport. It’s sort of a marketing ploy for internal and external participants.

What would be real amazing is if critical things such as injury reports and point-spreads were not made available to the public. Open any newspaper in America and you’ll find point-spreads of all the NFL games, even though wagering is legal only in Nevada. If the NFL was truly serious about their stance on gambling on their events, then why not use some of their mite to stop media outlets carrying something in their papers that can’t be acted on, legally.

The mandated injury report release for Thursday, prior to a teams weekend game, is very curious. With the new age things of technology such as e-mail, it might be a good idea to just have each coach mail each other their report and copy the league office instead of reporting it to the entire nation. To stop this gambling fad on the NFL, who is injured to degrees of probable, questionable, and doubtful is a major tool for the current bettor to have.

Whether they want to deny it or not, the NFL knows that fans betting on their sport is good for business. It keeps ratings up and interest in every game for an entire season. Opening up a whole new venue in Delaware allowing fans to gather, mingle, and wager on the sport they love is not a bad thing and in the long run, could be very beneficial for the league and a small segment of America’s economy.