Soon after the Westgate sports book opened for business Saturday morning, Brent Musburger swaggered in with a fistful of dollars.
Was he handicapping the day’s baseball games? Of course. But on the first day of July, Musburger was more focused on “King Football,” as he calls it. Football is what makes the sports betting world turn, and while it’s turning slowly during these sweltering summer days, that’s about to change.
Before leaving Las Vegas for a vacation in Montana, Musburger made a stop at a betting window. It was 9 a.m., and he was first to form what will be a long line over the next two months.
He signed up as contestant No. 1 in the Westgate SuperContest. The 78-year-old displayed a youthful enthusiasm about being a first-time entrant in the world’s most prestigious NFL handicapping event.
“I’ve always wanted to be in this contest, and I’m going to have a lot of fun with it,” he said. “I’ll put my cash down and go from there.”
Musburger, legendary broadcaster and lead host of the Vegas Stats & Information Network, laid out the $1,500 entry fee while Westgate sports book director Jay Kornegay watched him register. Musburger actually doubled down, paying $3,000 for the limit of two entries.
“Brent told me he has always been a fan of the SuperContest and always followed it,” Kornegay said. “This will be his first time. When we get celebrities in it, it certainly helps the popularity of the contest. It encourages others to get in, as well.”
Kornegay anticipates a record number of contestants to follow Musburger’s lead for the 2017 season.
“I do think we’re going to get to 2,000,” Kornegay said.
Last year’s contest attracted 1,854 entries, with a prize pool of $2,578,520. If entries hit 2,071 this year, the SuperContest winner will earn $1 million for the first time.
Kornegay’s projections seemed to be far-fetched figures a decade ago. The contest drew only 342 contestants in 2007. This is the 29th year for the SuperContest, which was created in 1989 by Art Manteris, who ran what was then known as the Las Vegas Hilton sports book.
The simplicity of the contest format is part of its appeal — participants are required to select five NFL games against the spread each week during the 17-week regular season. Kornegay has tweaked the rules and payout structure in recent years.
This year, Kornegay is adding SuperContest Gold, a $5,000-entry fee contest that is separate from the SuperContest. It’s a higher-end, winner-take-all event. The Gold contest is limited to one entry per person.
“I’m expecting to get 40 to 50 in the first year for SuperContest Gold,” Kornegay said. “I’ve heard from 30 to 200. Those are the estimates.”
For the first time, the Westgate is awarding championship rings to the winner of each contest, in addition to a large check and bragging rights.
The SuperContest brings together armchair quarterbacks and the sharpest minds in football handicapping. Expect a Cinderella story. Most times, an amateur emerges as king.
“I thought the stories last year about the winner and second place were really neat,” Musburger said.
In 2016, the winner was a Starbucks barista from Las Vegas. Damon Graham, 32, posted a 54-28-3 mark (65.9 percent) to beat the record field and collect $895,482.
Mark Jorstad, a 61-year-old farmer from the small town of Morris, Illinois, said he ignored analytics and rarely watched games while compiling a 53-29-3 record to finish second. Jorstad flew to Las Vegas to receive his check for $358,192. The top 50 finishers get paid.
Six free SuperContest entries will be given away during SuperContest Weekend Aug. 17-19, when VSiN hosts a series of shows from the Westgate to preview the football season.
If a barista and a farmer can cash in, could a broadcaster be next?
“I don’t think there’s anything easy about handicapping games against the spread,” Musburger said. “I’m looking forward to this. I’ve never been in Las Vegas around August to sign up. I don’t fancy myself as an outstanding handicapper because there’s too much emotion involved with me.”
SuperContest rules here:
SuperContest Gold rules here:
Raffle tickets with a top prize of a free SuperContest entry can be earned by Westgate SuperBook customers through Aug. 19.
Details on the SuperContest Raffle here: