As MS Gulf Coast makes plans for sports betting, LA lawmaker looks to revive his failed bill

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Along with its sandy beaches, the Mississippi Gulf Coast offers a number of casinos. And the area is eager to expand its gaming offerings thanks the U.S. Supreme Court.

"This new era in sports betting is phenomenal," said Milton Segarra, chief executive officer of Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast, which works to attract tourists to the area.

This week the highest court in the land ruled that states can legalize betting on sports, despite opposition from major sports leagues and the Trump administration.

"There is a correlation between the destination that has casino betting and bringing important major sports events," Segarra said.

Mississippi is in position to take advantage of the new opportunity. Its legislature already voted to allow betting on sports.

Island View Casino in Gulfport is preparing to offer sports betting.

"It'll be a complete setup with designated areas with TVs and sports book in a nice place. We've done our homework. We've got some nice places that are going to be pretty spectacular," said Rick Carter of Island View Casino.

A Louisiana state legislator said the Bayou State is missing a huge opportunity.

"The Mississippi Gulf Coast is just dying to cannibalize the New Orleans market," said Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Kenner.

This week, Martiny's bill to let local voters decide if sports betting should be allowed fell flat in the Legislature.

"I think it's an embarrassment. I think the rest of the country is ecstatic over the fact that they can do this," Martiny said.

Martiny said with Louisiana's ongoing money issues, it makes sense to embrace another form of legal gaming to bring in more cash. Now he believes neighboring Mississippi will benefit from Louisiana residents who want to bet on their favorite teams.

"If you think that defeating my sports betting bill is going to stop gaming in Louisiana, I mean, there's bookies and everybody," said Martiny.

"Louisiana, it's one of our biggest markets, and we really appreciate that, and we welcome Louisiana visitors," said Segarra.

The head of the Mississippi Gaming Commission said they are working on regulations for sports betting to present to the public.

"So you're looking at roughly 55 to 60 days from whenever we put the regulations out for comment where we can actually have sports betting," said Allen Godfrey.

While Godfrey is not convinced sports betting will result in a huge direct windfall for Mississippi, he thinks it will attract more tourists who will patronize not only casinos, but also other business as they engage in the gaming centered around sports.

"Once you put a 12% tax on it, it's not a ton of money per se. What I do believe is it will generate a lot of interest from a lot of people that for some reason or another would not come into this state and come to a casino," Godfrey said. "Now they have an opportunity to come, put a bet, a legal bet, on their favorite college or professional team."

"It's not so much money we're going to make, what I think is going to happen is we're going to lose money, we're going to lose patrons, because they're going to still want to gamble. But you know, sports betting is going to make it more attractive in Mississippi and in Arkansas," Martiny said.

Segarra is excited about the idea of sports betting opportunities.

"We have a phenomenal track record and we will make sure that the transparency is there and protecting the integrity of the game is front and center," he said.

He said it will be a plus for casinos on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

"As of last year, the numbers are almost at the same level as pre-Katrina, but we have seen an increase. But I can tell you this new door will certainly help to attract more visitors, more players and certainly increase the possibilities for our casinos," said Segarra.

Martiny said if he is unable to attach his failed bill to another piece of legislation that is still working its way through the legislative process, he will reintroduce it next year.

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