Weekend reflects betting's ascension


Hundreds of guys will flock to a ballroom tonight, eyes fixed on a stage, and no dancers resembling Kate Upton will be shedding clothes and sweeping up $1 bills.

The power of football, and how to bet on it, will be on display. The most prestigious football handicapping contest in Las Vegas — or anywhere else, for that matter — will take center stage.

A year ago, LVH sports book director Jay Kornegay set out to create a big scene that would cater to sports bettors and spark even more interest in the SuperContest.

“It was a tremendous success, and it certainly launched the SuperContest to a new level,” Kornegay said. “I hope the event serves the betting public and kicks off the football season the right way.”

The second LVH “SuperContest Weekend” promises to be better than the first, and the inaugural one last August was tough to top. It’s free, for starters, and at least five contest entries worth $1,500 each will be raffled off or won in a golf outing.

The ball begins rolling at 6 p.m. today with the Super Seminar, which features some marquee names in the industry and is hosted by Brian Blessing of Don Best Sports.

A sports betting panel, covering a wide range of topics, will be moderated by ESPN Radio’s Mitch Moss with speakers including Steve Fezzik (Pregame.com), Chad Millman (ESPN.com), Micah Roberts (The Linemakers on SportingNews.com) and Dave Tuley (ViewfromVegas.com).

The college football panel, hosted by ESPN Radio’s Steve Cofield, features handicappers Dave Cokin (SmokinCokin.com), Brian Edwards (VegasInsider.com), Bruce Marshall (Goldsheet.com) and Kenny White (DonBest.com).

Scott Spreitzer (Pregame.com) hosts the NFL panel with guests Marco D’Angelo (Pregame.com), Todd Fuhrman (DonBest.com), Ted Sevransky (Sportsmemo.com) and myself.

Last season, I hit 66.7 percent (56-28-1) against the spread in my Review-Journal NFL picks column, so I’ll try to explain how. A lot of luck was involved, that’s for certain.

What I will do is detail why Philip Rivers will be lucky to quarterback the San Diego Chargers to eight wins — their regular-season win total is 7½ — and why the Oakland Raiders should go under 5½ wins.

The LVH SuperContest, which requires contestants to select five NFL games ATS each week, appears to be headed over last year’s record of 745 entries. The contest, formed in 1989, drew 517 entries in 2011.

“I know some people are predicting it’s going to hit 1,000 entries this year, and the pace is close to that mark,” Kornegay said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we go over 900.

“The popularity of just betting football is increasing. Sports betting is an area that has shown strength while the rest of the economic world has struggled, and I think that says a lot.”

With an entry fee of $1,500, the prize pool tops $1 million with 667 entries. Last year’s winner was a female for the first time. She cashed for $447,000 and asked to remain anonymous. The second-place finisher earned $178,800. With those dollar figures as a carrot, it’s easy to see why the SuperContest is luring so many more rabbits.

The fast pace of the contest’s growth nearly resembles the World Series of Poker, which drew just seven players to the first Main Event field in 1970. In 1988, when Johnny Chan was the last back-to-back winner, he beat a field of 167 players. The $10,000 buy-in event actually dipped to 6,352 players this summer.

Poker’s popularity surged when the game was televised by ESPN. Sports betting, specifically the NFL handicapping part of it, is only beginning to get embraced by mainstream media.

“I certainly believe this contest can reach the heights of the World Series of Poker in the near future,” Kornegay said. “All we need is a TV contract.”

The football contest buffet offered by Las Vegas sports books has thinned, with high-end contests at Cantor Gaming, South Point, Station Casinos and Wynn fading away in recent years.

The SuperContest remains king. As of Thursday night, Kornegay said there were 315 entrants, more than 100 ahead of last year’s pace. He expects today’s seminar and Saturday’s golf outing and reception to bring in about 300 more.

Another record is close to being set, and the 1,000-entry milestone is within sight. It’s obvious football betting is a powerful attraction.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports betting columnist Matt Youmans can be reached at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907. He co-hosts “The Las Vegas Sportsline” weekdays at 2 p.m. on ESPN Radio (1100 AM). Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.