BILOXI, Miss. (WVUE) - It’s March Madness, and for many casinos in Mississippi that means lots of money from fans travelling there, cashing in on their first chance to bet on the NCAA basketball tournament.
Nikki McGowan is the sportsbook supervisor at the Scarlet Pearl Casino in Biloxi and said she was surprised by the turnout.
“I did not have the same expectations for college basketball as we had for college football. We know our college football fans here are huge, so to see those people come in and bet on college basketball, it’s become much larger than I ever anticipated,” McGowan said.
This year marks the first time sports betting is legal for the NCAA tournament in the United State, aside from Nevada.
The American Gaming Association predicts 47 million people will bet about $8.5 billion during March Madness.
"That's a huge number, and we certainly want our piece of the pie," McGowan said.
McGowan said sports betting really took of during the past football season.
"Oh, it was packed. every seat was taken, there was a lot of cheering, but this I think will bring in an even larger crowd," McGowan said.
They expect people to come from nearby states like Louisiana, Alabama and Florida, where sports betting isn't allowed.
"A lot of first-time gamblers. you know, you have your seasoned pros coming in, but we also have novices," McGowan said.
One thing gamblers should keep in mind -- according to Keith Whyte, the executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling -- is that most people don’t win.
“Most casual gamblers will lose everything they wager,” Whyte said.
However, people are already making their way to casinos..
“We know from Vegas’ past experience, since we don’t have a prior year experience here, that people are lining up six to seven in the morning," McGowen said. “Right now, few people are trickling in. Tonight, we expect a little bit more buzz.”
Senator Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, has been pushing for sports betting in Louisiana, and said he plans to file his bill for the upcoming session next week.