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Circa Sports increases prize money to $12M for football contests

Updated May 17, 2022 - 10:41 am

Circa Sports is raising the bar on NFL handicapping contests. Again.

Last season, the downtown sportsbook paid out an unprecedented $11 million in prize money for its Circa Million III and Circa Survivor contests, awarding six people $1 million-plus payouts.

This year, Circa is guaranteeing the largest pro football contest prize money ever of $12 million for Million IV and Survivor.

The $1,000 entry Circa Million IV will feature $6 million in guaranteed payouts — up from $4 million last year — and the $1,000 entry Circa Survivor will again feature a $6 million guaranteed payout, as well as a $1 million undefeated bonus prize.

“We’re back and bigger than ever,” Circa casino owner Derek Stevens said. “We want to make Las Vegas the hub of sports betting and football contests.

“We want people to come into our properties, so we’re amping it up.”

Each contest will need 6,000 entries to meet the guarantee.

Last year, Circa Million III beat the $4 million guarantee with 4,087 entries. But Circa Survivor fell well short of the $6 million guarantee with 4,080 entries. That resulted in a $1.92 million overlay for bettors that was paid for by the book.

“We got smoked last year, but we’re coming back for more,” Stevens said. “We figured this year may be a little different. There were still a lot of people that couldn’t travel last year because of the (COVID) restrictions.

“Hopefully, we’ll get more entries.”

Circa Million IV will feature the same format, in which entrants make five NFL picks against the spread each week during the 18-week season and the winner is guaranteed $1 million.

But there have been several changes. Places two through 100, up from 50 last year, will be paid $3.65 million. There will be $1.2 million in quarterly prizes awarded, up from $1 million last year.

The last-place booby prize will again receive $100,000. But a next-to-last-place booby prize has been added and will receive $50,000.

“We’re calling it ‘half a booby,’” Stevens said.

Last season’s booby prize winner finished with a 27-63 ATS record, the inverse of Circa Million III champion Tony Gordon’s 63-27 ATS mark (70 percent).

Five entries went 20-0 last season (NFL Weeks 1 through 18, plus Thanksgiving and Christmas) to share the $6 million in prizes in Circa Survivor, in which contestants pick one straight-up NFL winner (with no point spreads involved) each week but can use each team only once.

Three players split an additional $1 million bonus for waiting until the final week to use either of the 2021 Super Bowl teams, the Chiefs and Buccaneers.

In a new wrinkle, to be eligible for the $1 million undefeated bonus, an entrant can’t choose in any week either of the 2022 Super Bowl teams, the Rams and Bengals.

“We wanted it to be a little more difficult this year,” Stevens said. “There will be a little more game theory here.

“You’ve got to make a decision if you’re willing to forgo the $1 million bonus and take the Rams or Bengals, or hold off and go for that $1 million bonus.”

Each contestant can have up to three entries in Circa Million IV and up to six entries in Circa Survivor.

In another new wrinkle for Survivor, contestants can purchase up to six additional entries if they lose their original entries on the opening “Thursday Night Football” game Sept. 8 between the Bills and Rams.

An entrant cannot go into the Saturday deadline with more than six active entries.

“We’re trying to incentivize people to take the opening ‘Thursday Night Football’ game,” Stevens said. “If you win, you know you’re in Week 2. If you get a couple entries knocked out Thursday night, you can have a couple more.”

Registration starts Tuesday. Entries can be made at the Golden Gate, D Las Vegas, Circa, Tuscany and The Pass. People outside Nevada can enter the contests and have their weekly selections made through a proxy.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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