Mission Impossible

All over the state of Nevada you can find free shots at money by participating in NFL contests. Some ask that you visit each and every week to submit picks. Others offer parlay cards that settle out each week and can be played any time you visit, even if it’s only a few times a year. There are numerous formats and since they’re all free, there’s little room to complain about how they go about giving away the cash they advertise as being available — but I’m going to complain anyway.

The reason for my lack of gratitude is that in some instances what’s being given away for free is essentially nothing! Promotions such as these are attempts to draw customers into an establishment and the single biggest factor in the pitch is what’s being offered in prize money. Big quoted dollar amounts are the lure — but what if the advertised amount available really has no chance of being given away? What if simply winning it would result in an international investigation?


Offering big payouts for achieving near-impossible feats has become fairly common in casino advertising. A recent car giveaway at the now-closed Siena in Reno — which was advertised every way possible, including freeway signs and TV ads — promoted the opportunity to win a $75,000 alternative energy powered Tesla vehicle.

“All you have to do is come in and play your favorite games, then redeem them for entries into the contest. There will be drawings every Friday/Saturday at 6 p.m., 7:30 p.m., and 9 p.m. between now and the end of June, and six people will get a chance to spin our Tesla Triple Spin Wheel at every drawing.”

So the possibility of winning the Tesla car was advertised for anyone able to do the following: Play during the week and accumulate lots of drawing tickets, get pulled at the drawing, then spin the Tesla wheel three times. What they didn’t state was that the wheel had to land on the Tesla slot on all three spins. There was something like 100 slots on the wheel. Hitting that slot three straight times on a fair spin is a one-in-a-million shot. But first you had to win that drawing which was no small feat in itself. Let’s just cut to the chase and tell you that no one won a Tesla by spinning that wheel and having it land Tesla three times in June (though they gave away one at the end of the promo via a standard drawing).

As difficult as winning that car sounds, it was a walk in the park compared to winning this years Ellis Island $100,000 football contest bonus. Ellis Island is offering $100,000 to anyone who can pick at least 12 winners in each of the 17 weeks of its football contest. It sounds pretty tough — but how tough is it?

We asked the question of a couple of our friends who just happen to be world-class math guys and they found it intriguing enough to tackle.

Since the Ellis Island contest uses Sunday and Monday games only, there will be some weeks with fewer games than others. Once our guys had the actual schedule, they were able to come up with a good estimate. There are seven weeks in the NFL schedule that have just 13 Sun./Mon. games and one week that has only 12. They come consecutively, which means that in one eight-week stretch in the middle of the season you have to go 12 of 13 in seven of them and 12 of 12 in the other. Good luck with that.

The odds of actually winning the Ellis Island $100,000 bonus is 1 in 860,821,664,604,538,000,000 — give or take a few trillion. That number is most easily expressed as 1 in 860 million trillion. One of the math guys said you’re a BILLION times more likely to be hit by lightning in your lifetime than to win the 100K.

You’re also more likely to win Powerball in consecutive weeks. In fact, you’re more likely to be hit by lightning in the afternoon and then win PowerBall that night. You get the picture. It ain’t happening.


So given that it’s that unlikely, why not offer something really headline grabbing? Why not offer a million dollars? Why not $10 million? Certainly the cost of the insurance policy for such an offer would be minimal considering the odds. Why not offer to sign over the entire casino or for the owners to jump into a live volcano? Or both! The sky’s the limit.

It seems the joints that offer these can’t-hit propositions are missing the boat on a potential advertising bonanza. Warren Buffet got national media attention for his March Madness offer of a billion dollars for anyone who could fill out a perfect March Madness bracket. The odds of that were a mere 1 in 4,294,967,296. Much easier to achieve than the Ellis Island feat. Warren was safe after the first weekend — all entries dead. Ellis would probably be done sweating their offer by Week 3, if not earlier.

There are other contests in Las Vegas that are offering similar bonuses for impossible feats.

William Hill offers $100,000 for anyone winning 200 games in its contest. That would require someone to hit 200 out of 236 picks or 84.7%. The normal winning percentage required to take first place for the season in these no-pointspread contests is in the 68%-75% range. Hitting 85% isn’t nearly as difficult as the Ellis Island proposition, but it’s still resides in the near-impossible category. William Hill Bonus

The weekly periodical Gaming Today also offers a $100,000 prize. You have to hit at least 205 winners in that one to snag the money. Gaming Today Even less of a chance that happens.

Station is running two Last Man Standing contests — one for college and one for the NFL. If you win both you get an extra $135,000. Doing this is downright easy compared to the others. Exact entry counts would be needed to calculate the odds but based on previous years, your odds would be in the 1-in-200,000 range, not the impossibillions discussed above.

Other Ellis Island bonuses include a $100,000 prize for anyone hitting 210 out of 236 on the season — if you get to only 205, you win a car. A $10,000 prize is offered for having three perfect cards out of the 17. Our math guys came back with odds of achieving either of those using some kind of shorthand math to save room. Normal calculators don’t offer enough display space to express the probability.

The Rampart Red Zone To Riches Contest offers a $2,000 weekly bonus prize pool that gets split among all those who have better cards than the sports book director. This is a bonus that will get hit often, most likely every week. This type of bonus is what you should be looking for. It’s a reasonable amount that the Rampart knows it will have to pay to someone. Props to them!


A free shot at money is always nice, but if you’re making the effort to get to a specific casino to play a contest, make sure you understand what it is you have a reasonable chance to win. The casino is offering something to get you in the door because it knows you’ll most likely spend some money while there. It’s perfectly reasonable to expect something of value in return.

These free NFL contests are excellent marketing tools and some places, like Coasts and Station, give out a boatload of guaranteed money to those who show up to participate. Take advantage of these types of offers, but don’t get fooled by big numbers that really aren’t.

BTW, if @LVASports picks up at least 10 billion Twitter followers by Sept 13, 2015, I will personally hand over $100,000 to the lucky person that’s the 10 billionth.

Hey, it could happen.


Posted in SportsBook News, Uncategorized