NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Mississippi’s gulf coast is gearing up for the big championship weekend. It’s the closest place you can put money on the game and that has casinos in the area banking on big crowds thanks to the boys in black and gold.
"As soon as football kicked in, it really ramped up," said Hollywood Casino Gulf Coast General Manager Mike Galle.
Galle says the sports book may have started slow at Hollywood Casino Gulf Coast, but a winning regular and postseason for the home team has helped make up for it.
"With the Saints still in it, it should be a very good season for us," Galle said.
Mississippi legalized sports betting in August and the gulf coast is the closest place for Louisiana residents to cash in. It's why Galle is banking on out-of-staters to try their luck, especially ahead of the NFC and AFC championship games.
"This weekend, and definitely for the Super Bowl, we expect about three times our normal volume," he said.
Casinos believe the NFC championship game will bring people in Friday and keep them there all weekend and it won't hurt folks will have an opportunity to become financially invested in the game's outcome.
"We're going to be booking nothing but Saints action and we're okay with that. We're going to be rooting for our regular guests and the folks who come from New Orleans and across state lines. They come here to visit us and enjoy the weekend. They want to gamble, play the machines, shoot some dice but it all ends up on Sunday watching the game here with the Saints," explained Director of Sports Booking at Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort Nico Sfanos.
Sfanos says they got a later start than some, opening their sports book in mid-November.
"We're really impressed with what's happened here on the coast as far as sports gambling. I wasn't sure what we were getting into but it's proven now that the sports book is not just an amenity to the casino but it's a revenue source," Sfanos said.
With the Saints playing the NFC championship, Sfanos expects the dynamic to be a little different, with even more out-of-towners and first-time betters.
"The folks that don't normally wager on sports, they're going to make a little $10 bet, a little $20 bet to have a little extra incentive. You don't need anymore when you're rooting for our hometown Saints, so to speak, but to have a little bit of financial interest makes it that much more fun," said Sfanos.
Aside from the wagers, parlays and over-unders, Sfanos says a winning home team is good for all business in the region.
“Whether you’re selling merchandise or you’re a restaurant or whatever it is, having the saints win and keeping fans in and hopefully getting to the big game is just going to be good for everybody,” Sfanos said.