Breaking Free

If you play football contests, and you play them seriously, you probably have a pretty good handle on who’s running contests this year and how much each costs to enter. You can pay $750 to play Leroy’s Pro or College Challenge the maximum three times, $3,000 to enter the Las Vegas Hilton’s SuperContest twice or $10,000 for the Cantor Football Contest. Or you could take a shot at three popular contests that won’t cost you a thing.

The first is the Great Giveaway from Station Casinos. This one isn’t technically free. It’s $25 per entry. But if you submit your picks all 17 weeks and don’t win a prize, you get 100 percent of your fees refunded in slot or video poker freeplay, making this a risk-free venture with a shot at some big prizes, including houses, cars and up to $20,000-per-week in cash. You can enter and submit picks at Station, Fiesta and Wildfire casinos, as well as El Cortez, but you have to sign up by 10 a.m. Sept. 11.

M Resort’s Free Football Contest awards $9,000 in weekly cash and freeplay. Given that this is a single-property contest at a casino that’s off the beaten path, you figure to be facing much less competition here. You can qualify to have your prize doubled and earn additional entries to win a Land Rover if you play to required levels on your iMagine card, but you don’t have to play a penny to get one entry each week. You also don’t have to play this one all 17 weeks of the season, because there’s no year-end prize; just show up and submit picks when it’s convenient.

My favorite of the three is Pick the Pros at the Coast sports books. One reason is the ease of entering—everything is done electronically. Find a kiosk, insert your players club card, and the week’s games come up. Make your picks on the touch screen and the machine spits out a ticket so you can “sweat” your action. And with $30,000 winner-take-all up for grabs every week, you definitely will sweat if you sweep the morning games. You can play at The Orleans, Gold Coast, Suncoast, Sam’s Town, California and Fremont. Here, too, you don’t have to play every week. But when you do, be sure to get to a kiosk before kickoff of the first Sunday game.

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CityCenter, despite its bravura architecture, is a bit of a mystery—a place that wants to impress you but stubbornly refuses to welcome you. Maybe it’s the oceans of glass, which look beautiful on the skyline but up close seem aloof. Or maybe it’s simply that designers chose not to sully the project’s lengthy front facade with a pylon sign. No big letters. No neon. No LED. And few clues as to what’s going on inside. The lack of a sign has rendered CityCenter somewhat mute.