The countdown towards legal sports betting in Mississippi is officially on, after the state’s gaming regulator adopted a set of policies and regulations drafted 30 days ago.
On June 21, the Mississippi Gaming Commission (MGC) finalized a regulatory framework allowing all 28 commercial and tribal casinos in the state to apply for sportsbook operator licenses. Another 30-day waiting period mandated by law tabs July 20 the first day legal sports wagers may be taken.
On the same day that the MGC adopted its regulations, MGM Resorts International – which operates the Beau Rivage and Gold Strike casinos in Biloxi and Tunica, respectively – issued a tweet announcing July 21 as the launch date for both venues:
“It’s official! @BeauBiloxi and @GoldStrikeMGM will welcome sports wagering 7.21.18.”
That tweet has since been deleted, however, making the July 21 startup date for MGM-operated sportsbooks in Mississippi tenuous at best.
Even so, Brandon Dardeau – who serves as vice president of marketing for Beau Rivage Resort & Casino – told the Sun Herald that his venue was ready to accept bets immediately:
“We have looked forward to offering sports wagering in Mississippi for many years.
Construction has already begun on our provisional seven-window sports betting facility, which will be located outside the poker room. We’re currently in the process of hiring and training new sports book employees and finalizing our internal procedures.
Beau Rivage is on track to take wagers the day sports betting regulations go into effect.”
Caesars Entertainment – MGM Resorts’ primary rival in the American gaming industry – is also expected to capitalize quickly on legal sports wagering in the Magnolia State.
Jonathan Jones, general manager of the Caesars-operated Harrah’s Gulf Coast casino, spoke to the Sun Herald to outline the property’s vision for an onsite sportsbook:
“We are looking forward to capitalizing upon this new opportunity, and to debut this new and exciting feature at our resort and casino
(Caesars) has a fantastic infrastructure already in place for us to capitalize upon.
We expect to give our guests the ability to wager on sports at Harrah’s beginning with the 2018 fall football season.”
While MGM is targeting an immediate launch for July 20, smaller casino operators who lack the company’s extensive experience running sportsbooks in Las Vegas look to be following Caesars’ lead, scheduling sportsbook launches for September to coincide with the start of National Football League (NFL) regular season play.
Chett Harrison, general manager of the Golden Nugget Biloxi, told the Sun Herald that his venue’s sportsbook would be up and running in time for NFL action:
“We’ve been working on plans since probably early spring. We’ll be ready for football.”
His counterpart at Hard Rock Biloxi, Todd Raziano, also based his timeline on the NFL schedule:
“We plan to be open by football season, just like everyone else.”
In 2017, Mississippi lawmakers used a bill legalizing daily fantasy sports (DFS) as a vehicle with which to remove the state’s prohibition on sports betting.
House Bill 967 included language modifying Mississippi’s Gaming Control Act to allow the MGC to regulate sports betting, so long as federal law permitted.
The federal law in question – the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 – banned single-game sports betting in every state but Nevada. But after New Jersey’s repeated attempts to legalize sports betting on the state level spawned a series of lawsuits filed by the NCAA and the four major professional sports leagues, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled PASPA to be unconstitutional this May.
That ruling allows any state to legalize sports betting if it so chooses, an option that has already been taken advantage of by Delaware and Rhode Island.