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Mississippi is at the Starting Gate

All eyes in the U.S. gambling industry will be on Mississippi in the coming days, as the state is poised to become the latest to launch a regulated sportsbook. This will be the 4th state to have legal sports betting after Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey.

MGM International finds itself once again in the middle of the news in Mississippi, as two of their properties, Beau Rivage and Gold Strike, will start accepting sports bets at noon on August 1st. MGM has had quite a week of announcements, and this is another exciting step forward for both the company and the state itself. It is expected that Caesars and Boyd Gaming, who also own casinos in the state, will be launching their sportsbooks in time for the start of the NFL regular season.

Almost as exciting as waiting for these announcements is finding out who will be making the ceremonial first bets. For the state of Mississippi, there is an interesting list, to say the least. It includes the following people:

  • Willis McGahee, former NFL running back
  • Danny Sheridan, legendary oddsmaker
  • Robert Royal, former NFL player
  • Larry Gregory, former head of the Mississippi Gaming Commission

Unlike other states which have included the Governor on the invited list, this state chose to go with names closer to sports and gambling. No doubt the Governor’s office will be represented somehow at the events.

Mississippi may seem like a surprise to many people as a state that would be leading the charge into regulated sports gambling, but the state has actually had this in their heads for some time. IN 2017, legislation was passed that allowed Daily Fantasy Sports to be played, and if you read the details of that bill, you will find language that indicates that sports betting would no longer be illegal if it were deemed so by the Federal Government. By the time this bill had passed into law, the case between New Jersey and the sports leagues was well on its way to the Supreme Court, so the lawmakers in Mississippi knew that this language was paramount with the impending PASPA repeal. With the outcome that all gamblers and casinos were looking for arriving in May, Mississippi was able to open the door to applications overnight.

Now, what can we expect from the new sports betting facilities in Mississippi? Well, we know there will be some growing pains. Initial feedback from many of the New Jersey gamblers was that lines needed adjusting, and trying to build a sportsbook and staff it in only a few months is bound to come with some glitches.

Another cause for concern when it comes to the numbers is that initially, the state will not allow online or mobile wagering. This means that anyone who wants to make a sports bet will need to go to one of the physical locations. This is nice for adding foot traffic to the casinos, but in the long run, most bettors are unlikely to head there every day to make bets. We hope the state revisits this plan soon as online and mobile are the future (actually, they are the present) of the sports betting market.

One thing that MGM has going for it in Mississippi is that tax rate. The expected tax rate for sports betting operators is 12%, which is in line with most of the states, except Pennsylvania who has a rate set at a whopping 36%. With a reasonable tax implication, sports books in Mississippi will not have to pass as many costs along to players, which means they will also have the leeway to be a little more competitive when it comes to promotions.

So, another domino has fallen in the U.S. sports betting space. We expect a couple more states to cram their way into the sports betting scene before the end of 2018, but for now, the spotlight is on Mississippi, and as the first legal sportsbooks in all of the southern United States, we think it is going to be a very busy few months for the folks in Tunica and Biloxi.