A season of very abnormal sports schedules — NHL and NBA playoffs in September, no fall Big 10 football at all — has so far impacted leagues, fans, and sports bettors largely for the negative.
But at least for bettors in and around Las Vegas, or those up for making the trip during a pandemic, odds are increasing that there will be substantial “overlay” in both the Circa Sports Million and Circa Sports Survivor NFL betting/pick’em contests.
Meaning, there may be fewer, or far fewer, contestants vying for a combined $4 million in guaranteed prize payouts than expected, and correspondingly much higher expected value for each entry. Thus participants’ chances of winning big prizes may be much higher than should be expected — if this were a normal year without a virus impeding travel and entries. Of course, it is not a normal year.
In 2019, Circa Sports planted a flag as a friendly rival to the popular Westgate Las Vegas’ SuperContest that has attracted over 3,000 entries in recent seasons, with a $1.4 million top prize last year. After Circa’s well-attended (1,875 entries) debut NFL pick’em contest in 2019, the sportsbook team and owner Derek Stevens pressed the gas and guaranteed a $1 million top prize and $3 million in total prizes for the Million contest, in which entrants pick five teams against the spread every week.
That’s $3 million irrespective of the number of entrants. Thus, if 3,000-plus sign up (max three entries per person) at $1,000 per entry, Circa would not be on the hook to make up the difference between entry fees collected and prizes guaranteed. As of Tuesday, Circa has collected 311 entries for the pick’em contest, for an overlay of $2,689,000.
The Survivor contest is at 115 entries, for an overlay of $885,000.
“As we get closer to the season I’d imagine any gambler would be looking to take advantage of what could possibly be the biggest overlay in any contest ever,” Jeff Benson, sportsbook operations manager at Circa, told US Bets.
Marketing up with overlay on the line
According to a source based in Las Vegas, Circa is “running commercials about the contests here in Vegas like every other slot it seems. Watching these sports games all day, I feel like I see eight to 10 at least.”
Due to Nevada regulations and federal law, contest participants must sign up and pay the entry fee in person. Thereafter, proxies may enter picks online or in person each week on the entrant’s behalf.
For some historical perspective, in its debut season, the Circa Million contest had drawn 543 entrants on Aug. 17, 2019, and ticked up to 580 by Aug. 18. That’s a healthy click ahead of where things stand now. Due to fewer out-of-state entrants, the SuperContest is also tracking behind where it was last year, with 285 entrants as of Wednesday, Aug. 19.
Haha, love this. We currently have 543 entries in the #CircaSportsMillion Pro Football Contest and an overlay of $957,000. 🏈🤑
Get all the details at https://t.co/KbC1LYJ8Pk https://t.co/msFbqWuw9S
— Circa Sports (@CircaSports) August 18, 2019
This is the debut season for Circa’s Survivor contest, so we cannot compare current pace against entries last year.
Barometer this weekend
Thinking about visiting us in Vegas to sign up for our #CircaSportsMillion and #CircaSurvivor football contests?
You better watch this announcement from @MikePalmCirca and @DerekJStevens … pic.twitter.com/HHrWkG1Lt1
— Circa Sports (@CircaSports) July 23, 2020
In July, Derek Stevens (see above) sweetened the pot to attract some casino-hotel visitors, with free room potential.
But this coming weekend should be the moment of truth about the level of interest, and level of willingness for Californians to make a drive into town, or others to fly in from across the country. Circa will go ahead with its Football Contest Weekend on Friday and Saturday — a couple of schmoozing and boozing opportunities at The D in Las Vegas.
🏆🏈 @CircaSports Football Contest Weekend 🏈🏆#CircaSportsMillion #CircaSurvivor
Sports Betting Panel feat. @VSiNLive greats @MitchMossRadio @beatingthebook @mattyoumans247 & @mlombardiNFL
Meet & Greet with all of the above! 🏈🍻🏆
Take it away @MikePalmCirca! pic.twitter.com/O0qWEBPGbq
— Circa Sports (@CircaSports) June 26, 2020
Contest signups began on March 6, five days before the NBA suspended play for nearly four months.
Obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic is creating the overlay exposure here, grounding scores of would-be out-of-state visitors. It is also putting Nevada casinos at a persistent risk of having to temporarily close doors again.
Among additional factors not helping? There’s no NFL preseason to run up to the regular season, and thus much less NFL on television. Many fantasy football leagues are plodding through uncertainty and confusion. College football season cancellations are mounting, putting fewer football appetizers on the table and on the mind. And with NBA and NHL playoffs now plowing ahead at all hours of the day when normally they would be in offseasons, people are distracted and have other betting opportunities.
Kickoff for the NFL season so far remains Thursday, Sept. 10, between the Houston Texans and defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs.
In the eyes of already registered Circa Millions entrants, well, I’m the jerk for pointing out the potential here and perhaps encouraging more entries; on the other hand, if you’re not yet signed up, well, you’re welcome and good luck.
Photo credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports