Parimutuel Wagering Could Come To Mississippi Casinos - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

01/24/05

Parimutuel Wagering Could Come To Mississippi Casinos

A bill sent to the house gaming committee deals solely with horse racing. The race book legislation gives casinos the option to open off track betting facilities.

Similar legislation didn't have enough support last year. But Palace Casino general manager Keith Crosby is betting he can get it passed this session.

"Right now, you can watch Fairgrounds races here. But you can't wager on them," he said.

And that's something Crosby wants the legislature to change -- so his Palace Casino Sports Zone can offer more than slot machines and TV screens.

"The issue is real simple," he said. "As the industry matures, there is a point where you just have to say you just can't keep offering the same product over and over and over. You've got to refresh what you're doing."

Crosby's answer is a race book. He thinks the Sports Zone's computerized TV monitors and the sports ticker that circles the room make the perfect daily double for gamblers who like the horses.

"It's available in Alabama. It's available in Louisiana," Crosby said.

But race books are not part of Mississippi's gaming regulations. So right after our interview, Crosby headed to Jackson. He told lawmakers that House Bill 1448 would give his industry the option to open race books -- and potentially give the state a much needed revenue jolt.

"As a school board member in Ocean Springs, I'm fighting a budget crunch right now," the casino general manager said.

"So I'm going to Jackson not asking for any money. I'm taking some money to Jackson, saying this is a way for us to add revenue. This gives us another dimension that allows us to compete with other markets. But it's a sign of maturity for this industry 12 years into it."

Crosby used some Nevada research to estimate how much money race books could bring Mississippi. He figures that if eight Mississippi casinos opened race books, the state could make an extra million dollars a year.

Again, this bill only deals with horse racing. Sports wagering outside Las Vegas is banned by the federal government.

by Brad Kessie

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