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Circa Offering $10 Million Guaranteed Payout In Survivor Pool

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Circa Sports announced Thursday it has raised the guaranteed payout to $10 million for its wildly popular Survivor contest for the upcoming NFL season, lifting the total payouts for that and its Circa Millions contests to $16 million.

“We talked about it and we try to figure out every year: What should be our right number? And internally, we came to $10 million pretty quickly,” Circa CEO Derek Stevens told Sports Handle. “It was a lot of fun putting it out there announcing it this morning. It’s the first time there’s ever been an eight-figure guarantee on a legal football contest, it’s pretty exciting.”

It is the second straight year Circa has upped the guaranteed payout to the Survivor Pool — arguably the most popular sports betting contest in the U.S. — by $2 million, with four winners splitting last year’s $9.27 million pot. The quartet correctly made 20 picks over the course of the 18-week NFL season, including bonus rounds for Thanksgiving and Black Friday during Week 12 and Christmas Day games for Week 16.

The payout for the Survivor Pool could exceed $10 million if the number of entrants exceeds 10,000, similar to last year when the guaranteed payout was $8 million. The Circa Million VI will again feature a $6 million guaranteed payout, including $1 million to the winner along with the Circa Sports blue jacket, as well as quarterly prizes. With no rake for either contest, all entry fees go directly into the prize pools.

Sign-up for both contests begins Friday at 9 a.m. local time at all of Circa’s locations: Circa Resort & Casino; the D Las Vegas; Silverton Casino Lodge; Tuscany Suites & Casino; The Pass at Water Street; and Legends Bay in Sparks, Nev.

Stevens surprised at growth of Circa Survivor

This is the fifth year of Circa Survivor, which originally began with a $1 million payout in 2020. With the payout increasing 10-fold in less than five years, Stevens admitted the quick, exponential growth caught him off-guard.

“When it was the second year of the Circa Millions, we guaranteed $3 million … and then we decided, OK, we’re going to guarantee $1 million in Circa Survivor,” Stevens said. “We didn’t know if it was going to take or not. Within our executive ranks, myself and (Circa Director of Operations) Jeff Benson, thought it was worth the shot. Others had not played this before, so they weren’t really sure.

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“So we really didn’t know. We were going into some new territory, but it jumped over the guarantee, and then every year since it’s jumped over.”

Stevens attributes the popularity of Circa Survivor to two components of inverse degrees — the ease of play and the difficulty in strategizing weekly picks as an entry gets deeper into the contest season — that provide the “adrenaline and energy and the emotions.”

After last season’s payout was split four ways, this edition has the potential to offer an eight-figure payout to a single winner should one person remain standing at the end. Circa has such a payout as a casino with its Megabucks jackpot, but that is delivered in annual installments. Stevens noted there has yet to be a single Circa Survivor winner in its history, something he feels will eventually happen.

“There were a couple of instances two years ago where the way a couple of games fell, we could have had a single Circa Survivor. It just didn’t happen that way,” he recalled. “But one day, it’s going to happen. And it will be pretty cool to give out the biggest one-time check ever. It will be the biggest payout in Vegas history at one point in time.”

Circa Survivor and Circa Millions as economic engines

Because entrants have to register for both contests at one of Circa’s properties in Nevada — entry fees are $1,000 for each contest with a maximum of 10 entries for Circa Survivor and five for Circa Millions VI — Stevens noted the in-person registration requirement, which also provides access to Circa’s mobile sports betting app, help draw tourists to his casino and Las Vegas during the summer months. It was also a contributing factor in there being no rake for either contest.

“We felt that (no rake) was important because that gave people the very best value,” Stevens said. If we went over what we guaranteed, all that money goes back to the contestants, 100% of it.

“It’s turned into a real big element of attraction in the months of July and August, bringing people into Las Vegas to stay with us or, if nothing else, to come out and buy a couple of drinks or visit some of our other amenities like Stadium Swim or the Legacy Club or maybe buy a hotel room with us.”

There is a chance Circa may not have to provide an overlay to guarantee the $6 million payout in the Millions, though Stevens admitted he and his team “may have gotten a little too overzealous” a couple of years ago raising the payout from $4 million in 2021 to $6 million in 2022. Circa had to provide a $726,000 overlay to make the pool whole last year, considerably less than the $1.3 million needed in 2022.

When asked for advice for potential participants, Stevens noted the importance of setting up appointments to contact with proxy services, which help those entrants who are not able to make weekly trips to Las Vegas. And from there, he added, entrants can “turn it into a great couple-day trip to enjoy yourself.”

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