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Mississippi gaming industry rebounding well after earlier shutdown

Mississippi gaming industry seeing increases over 2019, despite pandemic.
Mississippi gaming industry seeing increases over 2019, despite pandemic.(WLBT)
Updated: Dec. 2, 2020 at 8:31 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Many industries say their return to normal has been slow as the pandemic continues. But one is bouncing back better than you may have expected.

Casinos around the state were totally shut down for a couple of months at the start of this pandemic. So, there were obviously lost dollars because of that. But COVID-19 doesn’t seem to have put a damper on the desire to gamble.

In contrast to some industries, gaming has come back from its shutdown stronger than before. June-September’s gross gaming revenues in the state were better than last year’s numbers for those months combined.

“We’re not where we want to be, but I would say we’re not that far behind based on all the circumstances we’ve had to deal with,” said Mississippi Gaming Commission Executive Director Allen Godfrey.

Sportsbooks in particular have rebounded well.

“October of this year was a record for us,” said Godfrey. “I think it was $60 million in legal sports wagers placed at the casinos which is of a bug last year. So, that’s a good sign.”

As you might guess, the majority of those wagers were on football. And a look at the taxable revenue alone shows a $2.3 million increase over last October.

“I believe we felt the effects,” noted Godfrey. “People are playing sports and if there’s a sport out there to be played, there will be someone willing to wager on it. Even in the middle of all this.”

One thing that could be ahead of the state is another option for placing those sports wagers. The Senate Gaming Committee held a hearing on mobile sports betting Wednesday.

“We feel like on the coast the illegal betting has dropped because we’re so close to being able to go and actually place a bet,” said Sen. Philip Moran. “It would drop tremendously more with the use of this. Just simply the convenience of it.”

Currently, it’s illegal to place mobile sports bets on an app off-site from a casino. But lawmakers are learning how it would work to add an option for folks to log in and place bets at a casino without ever stepping foot in the building.

“And Mississippi faces, as director Godfrey mentioned, competition retail from Arkansas mobile, from Tennessee and soon to be from Louisiana,” noted William Hill CEO Joe Asher.

Any action on mobile sports betting would take time. It would have to first go through the legislative process and the legislature doesn’t return until next month for the 2021 session.

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