Mississippi Gaming Board President: ‘The only difference is sports booking’

Mississippi marks 1 year of sports betting

BILOXI, MS. (WVUE) - Mississippi leaders are touting a five percent increase in gaming revenue since the legalization of sports betting one year ago.

As more Mississippi casinos cash in on sports books, gaming leaders hold out hope Louisiana won’t follow suit.

Beau Rivage Sports Book Manager Will Hall works the floor at the casino's recently opened bar and book.

“They had this in the works before we even have a temporary venue so I love that anticipation of how popular it was going to be and it is,” Hall gushed about the new space.

Legalized a year ago, August 1, Wall says sports betting has meant a big boost in business.

"Not only gaming business, but retail business, as well," he said.

Executive director of Mississippi’s gaming board, Allen Godfrey, says the state’s gaming revenue is up five percent; the first time in years, and the only difference between this year and last is the introduction of sports betting.

“I’ve noticed a significant amount of foot traffic. The operators have told me how many more people are coming in, especially people they haven’t seen in a while. It’s a different clientele, probably a little younger, people who love sports. We know football is key here in the south, especially college football,” Godfrey explained.

Yet, Godfrey says the revenue generator is not the sports book by itself.

"I think the revenue projections for that were probably a little short, but I don't think we expected all the additional gross gaming revenue," said Godfrey.

"What they're doing in Louisiana, not legalizing sports betting, they're out of their minds," said sports analyst and odds-maker Danny Sheridan.

Sheridan says he has a number of clients in New Orleans.

"The people of Louisiana bet on the Saints, on LSU, on Tulane, Louisiana Monroe, Louisiana Lafayette, during football season like there's no tomorrow," Sheridan explained.

Sheridan says considering how many Louisianans already bet on sports illegally, he says the state is only hurting itself by not dipping in.

"Why shouldn't you get some of that revenue for the state? It's not like you're twisting somebody's arm and making a degenerate better," exclaimed Sheridan.

Yet, Mississippi gaming leaders are quite content to keep things the way they are.

"We hope they continue to have their disagreements over there, then we will continue to get the crowd that would go there to come here," said Godfrey.

Louisiana lawmakers failed to pass a sports betting bill. Senator Danny Martiny’s legislation would have legalized sports betting beginning in 2020 and included a local referendum to allow residents of each parish to make the final decision.

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