Mississippi Sports Betting Misses Target Launch, Delayed by At Least Two Weeks, Says Gaming Commissioner

Posted on: July 24, 2018, 05:00h. 

Last updated on: July 24, 2018, 05:57h.

Mississippi sports betting became legal on Sunday, but the state’s first sports books won’t be up and running until another couple of weeks, at least, says the state’s gaming regulator.

Mississippi sports betting
It may not have a major sports team, but a framework of regulation for Mississippi sports betting was drawn up last month. Operators missed the first possible launch date on Sunday, but gaming commissioner Allen Godfrey believes the first sports book is two weeks away. (Image: NFL.com)

Nevertheless, Mississippi remains a shoo-in to become the third US state — after Delaware and New Jersey — to offer sports betting since the demise of PASPA, the 1992 federal law that prohibited states from legalizing the market within their borders.

The state passed a bill to legalize sports wagering last year. Then, on June 21, the Mississippi Gaming Commission approved a framework of regulation, setting in motion a 30-day waiting period for budding licensees of the new industry. That expired on June 22.

Renovation Phase

So far, 14 of Mississippi’s 28 land-based and riverboat casinos have applied to offer sports betting, but state gaming commissioner Allen Godfery told Reuters that none are quite ready to launch operations just yet.

They’re still making space to build their sports bars, while working on compliance issues, before they receive final approval, he said.

“Right now, the ones wanting to get started are still in the renovation phase,” said Godfrey, adding that the first casino is probably still two weeks away from receiving the official thumbs up.

The race now is to be up and running in time for the new NFL season in September.

Yielding Big from Small Margins

Mississippi has had casino gaming for over 25 years, although Godfrey admits sports betting is a pure learning curve. But perhaps the biggest unknown is how much revenue it will generate for the casinos and the state.

Operators are not expecting miracles from sports betting. It’s a product that offers small margins, from which they will retain around 5 percent of all bets they handle. But Mississippi is well-positioned to profit, nevertheless.

Unlike some eastern states, where casinos are reaching saturation point, Mississippi is surrounded by conservative jurisdictions that have largely eschewed casino gaming. This means no clear competitor to its sports betting ambitions is likely to emerge.

The closest, West Virginia, is 500 miles away.

The American Gaming estimates that $150 billion per year is wagered by Americans on the black market. If it can tap that market, Mississippi’s regional dominance could translate into serious returns, no matter how small the margins.