Game Changer: Mississippi casinos move quickly to add sports betting

Game Changer: Mississippi casinos move quickly to add sports betting

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - This is a sure bet: Mississippi Gulf Coast casinos will move quickly to take advantage of Monday's Supreme Court ruling striking down a 1992 federal law that made most sports betting across the nation illegal. The first bets could be placed within weeks. This means the state can now compete on a truly level playing field with other gaming venues such as Las Vegas.

When asked whether the Golden Nugget Casino in Biloxi will open a sports book, General Manager Chett Harrison told WLOX News Now, "100 percent, yes! Been working on it for two months."

That sentiment was echoed by Palace Casino General Manager Keith Crosby.

"We intend to offer race and sports book," Crosby told WLOX News Now. He said the casino's existing high limits area will be transformed into the sports book area.

MGM Resorts International, which owns Beau Rivage Casino Resort in Biloxi, released a statement saying, "Mississippi is already well on the way to offering legal sports wagering. We are actively engaged with Mississippi regulators and anticipate we will be able to offer best-in-class sports books within a few months, as soon as regulations are in place."

Making room for sports betting will bring something new to even the newest coast casino.

Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort CEO LuAnn Pappas said, "We have been working on the possibilities for our Sports Betting operations and are looking forward to working with our regulators."

She went on to say the timing of the court's decision was ideal because the D'Iberville casino already has two new food and beverage areas currently under construction.

Rick Carter, owner of Island View Casino in Gulfport is one of the casino operators who has been planning for the day when Mississippi could get in the sports betting game.

"The buzz is there. People are excited about it. Everyone is jockeying around trying to be the first one. This is a game changer for us. This gives us another amenity we can go out and market that makes us different than everybody else, and that is big," Carter said.

Boyd Gaming, which owns the IP Casino Resort in Biloxi, already has more than 40 years of experience in sports betting. The company operates one of the largest sports book networks in the state of Nevada. By the end of 2018, they expect to have operations in 10 different states.

Boyd Gaming President and CEO Keith Smith said they see the expansion of sports betting as a growth opportunity for their company.

"Boyd Gaming is now in excellent position to become a leading player in the growth and expansion of sports betting across the country," Smith said shortly after Monday's ruling. "Whether we ultimately offer sports betting in specific states will depend on the rules and tax rates set forth by each state. It is still too early to say which specific opportunities we will pursue, but we are monitoring the situation very closely, and are prepared to act quickly as individual states move forward with legislation."

Mississippi Gaming Commission Executive Director Allen Godfrey said, "We are receiving input and will put regulations out for public comment ASAP."

State gaming regulators and casino executives have been expecting the court's ruling and looking forward to a possible game change.

Michael Cavanaugh is a gaming industry attorney. Last summer, he talked with WLOX News about the possibility of an even playing field when it comes to sports betting nationwide. He predicted eSports and actual video gaming will be the next big thing. The popularity is already on display in Las Vegas where sports betting has always been legal.

"There's going to be $20 billion wagered on eSports by the year 2020. It's amazing, and the challenge to the market is how do you quantify. How do you make book, so to speak," Cavanaugh said.

The Supreme Court's decision Monday overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, which barred state-authorized sports gambling everywhere except Nevada, Delaware, Montana, and Oregon. Other states had the option to opt-in, but no others acted in time.

Then in the early 2000s, as Atlantic City casinos began losing revenue, voters there amended the state Constitution to allow for sports betting. That's when the state, and then-governor Chris Christie, challenged the federal law saying a ban on state-sanctioned sports betting is illegal.

READ MORE: Supreme Court makes sports betting a possibility nationwide

Monday's opinion from the Supreme Court states,

"The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make.  Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each State is free to act on its own.  Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution. PASPA is not."

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