The Executive Director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, Godfrey and his staff made Mississippi the third state to launch legal sports betting last year, less than two months after the May 14, 2018 fall of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. Only Delaware and New Jersey beat the Magnolia State to the punch.
“I guess, in a nutshell, my feeling is, it was a great year from last August 1 to today,” Godfrey told Sports Handle Tuesday, when the MGC released its July revenue report. “The numbers may not have been what somebody said they would be, but they weren’t that far off. If you look at the gross gaming revenue for the state, we’re up, four or five percent. That’s pretty good.”
Sports betting brings more people to MS casinos
A Global Market Advisors study projected a Mississippi market with in-person sports betting only would generate handle of $180 mm, but in their first 12 months, Magnolia State sportsbooks saw a handle of $300 mm, according to Godfrey. Mississippi sportsbooks sent a total of $4 mm into state coffers, based on 8 percent state and 4 percent local taxes.
Godfrey is all about seeing the bright side and hoping for more growth as Year Two begins.
“Gross gaming revenue is up, the visitor count is up, the operators are very excited about what it’s done for them and their properties,” he said. “So much so, that Harrah’s Gulf Coast, and both MGM properties (Beau Rivage and Gold Strike) have all completely remodeled their sportsbooks. They started that three or four months ago, not even all the way through the the year. They’re only doing that because it’s been a positive experience. More people are there going to the bars, restaurants, staying at hotels … it’s been a very positive experience for the state of Mississippi.”
The MGM’s Beau Rivage was one of the first two sportsbooks to open in 2018.
Let the sports betting begin. Today at noon, Mississippi became the third state in the nation allowing wagering on sporting events. Former LSU Tiger Robert Royal was among the dignitaries placing a bet as the sports book opened at the Beau Rivage in Biloxi. @WWLTV pic.twitter.com/YClkoNupTZ
— Paul Murphy (@PMurphyWWL) August 1, 2018
Through the first seven months of 2019, that number has already reached $157 mm, and that’s before the start of the college and professional football seasons. In 2018, bettors placed $150.83 mm in wagers between September and December — and the last of Mississippi’s 23 sportsbooks didn’t open for business until November. If that number holds or rises in 2019, handle will easily eclipse that $300 mm for the first 12 months.
July handle down
One of the states hurting itself with resistance to mobile betting. https://t.co/wcHMZnroUq
— David Payne Purdum (@DavidPurdum) August 20, 2019
Handle in July was $13.4 mm, down from $15.2 mm in June, but both months represent the true dog days of summer — especially in a state where college football is king.
Baseball continued to be the leader, with $10.14 mm in bets being placed on the sport, followed by $1.76 mm on parlay cards, $1.06 on other, $327,385 on basketball and $71,016 on football. The state had a 7.87 percent hold, and the Gulf Coast, home to the lion’s share of the state’s casinos the biggest write — $8.66 mm. Overall, taxable revenue was $1.05 mm.
In the 12 month since sports betting launched in Mississippi, the state has taken a beating in the media because its existing laws do not permit state-wide mobile sports betting. Only wagering on casino premises.
While Godfrey agrees there’s more money to be made making it legal for people to bet from their mobile devices, he’s not so sure it will kill the black market as much as invite more law-abiding citizens into the fray.
“We’re not going to put much of a dent into the black market,” he said, “But we might get people who aren’t doing it.”
Godfrey, as a regulator, has no say in whether or not the state legislature will legalize mobile sports betting, but he’d like to see it happen if for no other reason so that his state is keeping up with the Joneses. Godfrey cited both Tennessee, the only state to legalize mobile-only sports betting, and Arkansas, which went live with sports betting earlier this year, as competitors. And though Louisiana has been slow to legalize sports betting at all, Godfrey knows that his neighbor to the West — which has the biggest population center in his area of the South — will get it done eventually. And he doesn’t want Mississippi to be left behind.
— Chad Schex (@schexnola) May 29, 2019
“Yes, I do think there will be a push from the industry for mobile wagering,” he said. “You know how it takes a while, you gotta keep pushing and eventually it will get there.”
In New Jersey, the most mature (but young) market outside Nevada, latest figures show mobile/online sports betting handle has now eclipsed 80% of total betting handle in the state.
Mobile sports betting’s legalization was bandied about the state legislature in 2019, but died before getting to a vote. With elections coming in November, it’s possible the next class of legislators will make it a priority.