Football Contest Time

Football season is here, which means lots of promotions in the casinos. Many will be revealed in the week leading up to the NFL’s Week 1 games and new ones will pop up throughout the season. Always of interest going into the first week are the football contests, which offer excellent entertainment value and a chance for a big payday.

There are two categories of contests: pay and free. If you want to play in one or more of the big pay contests, you have about a week to enter, with most deadlines falling on September 9. The highest entry fee is $5,000 for the new “SuperContest Gold” at Westgate. The other pay contests are “Friday Football Showdown” at Golden Nugget ($2,000), the “SuperContest” at Westgate ($1,500), “College Pick ’Em” ($500) and “Pro Pick ’Em” ($25) at William Hill Race & Sports Books and “Last Man Standing College” and “Last Man Standing Pro” ($25) at Station Casinos. If you pony up for one of these, be aware that the competition is stiff, but you also have a chance for a monster payday and some serious notoriety if you win one.

More in the realm of possibility (and probability) for most players are the free contests. There will be many of these in all shapes and forms, but the two big dogs are “Gridiron Glory” at Station and “Pick the Pros” at Boyd Gaming casinos. Both of these provide great entertainment and a shot at big money. They’re easy to play by submitting your picks at kiosks in any of the casinos and both pay out the majority of their prize money to weekly winners, so you’re not locked into having to play every week (though in “Gridiron Glory” there’s a premium for playing often to qualify for the postseason contest).

These are two excellent contests, but if I had to choose one, I’d go with Boyd’s “Pick the Pros.” I still like this one for the buzz of playing for the big $30,000 weekly payout. Plus, you get three entries each week (up to five for higher club tiers), which means three times the action to sweat. It’s a winner-take-all format and there’s a lot of competition, so you’ll usually have to go perfect to win, but just getting close will get the juices flowing.

Two more confirmed free contests are “College Football Clash” at the Wildfire locations and “Red Zone to Riches” at Rampart Casino (although only your first pick is free), but there will be more showing up at casino kiosks, local bars and online. Last year you could play free contests at Ellis Island, Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Klondike Sunset, Longhorn, PT’s, the two O’Aces bars and Irene’s Cocktail Lounge. These typically pay closer to $1,000, but you’re playing against much smaller fields: Unlike the big free contests, you don’t have to go perfect to cash in.

Which ones should you play? If they’re free, you should play ’em all.

Anthony Curtis is the publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor and