GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Coast business leaders are keeping close tabs on the potential impacts of sports betting on the local economy. This was the topic of discussion at Tuesday's Gulf Coast Business Council meeting. This comes just one week after the U.S. Supreme Court opened the doors for sports betting in Mississippi and other states.
Gaming expert and attorney Thomas Shepherd III believes Mississippi could have a monopoly across the South.
"The surrounding states either have no gaming at all or have not approved sports betting yet. So, Mississippi is in the catbird's seat as far as being able to take advantage of this opportunity," Shepherd explained.
The timing is perfect according to Ashley Edwards with the Gulf Coast Business Council.
"Some of our slowest times here on the Coast are during the fall and winter months, during the Saturday's of college football, the Sunday's of professional football," she said. "So, the ability now to bring in a whole new market of people into our gaming industry is significant. It can be a game changer for the Coast."
President of People's Bank, Chevis Swetman, says it's not just about gambling on your favorite teams.
"You've got the ability to cross-sell hotel rooms, entertainment, other gaming opportunities at the casino. You have the restaurant industry here on the Coast. All facets of tourism should be able to grow."
Clay Williams, Director of the Gulfport-Biloxi International Airport believes it could grow air travel to the Coast.
"It's exciting for the Mississippi Gulf Coast and South Mississippi. We look forward to seeing it get underway and hopeful that it's going to translate to additional air travel," he said.
Sports betting will mean additional dollars, according to Shepherd.
"The estimates that I've seen are somewhere between $50 and $150 million dollars in additional gaming revenue in the state of Mississippi."
In a state that is near the bottom of every list when it comes to socio-economic standards, when it comes to gaming, Mississippi is always near the top. So why is that? Edwards has a theory.
"You have business leaders in the gaming industry that understand the opportunity and are pushing public policy forward. So, it's a good example of when business leads the way, public policy follows."
The hope is that new visitors to the Coast will follow others into the casinos to take advantage of sports betting.
The State Gaming Commission could vote to approve sports betting inside casinos at the next meeting on June 21st. Theoretically, wagers on games could begin 30 days after that, on July 21st.