Missippi casinos celebrate first day of legal sports betting

TUNICA, Miss. (KTHV) – Razorbacks and Red Wolves fans can finally put their money on their teams, if they cross the border.

Mississippi celebrated its first day of legalized sports betting Wednesday with twin ceremonies at casinos in Tunica and Biloxi.

Gold Strike Casino Resort and Beau Rivage Resort & Casino opened their sports books, with state legislators and former pro football stars placing the first bets. “

We have been looking forward to this day for a long time,” said David Tsai, president and COO of Gold Strike.

Mississippi became the third state to accept wagers since the Supreme Court ended its moratorium on sports gambling earlier this year, following Delaware and New Jersey, which began accepting wagers in June.

Michael Murrell was one of many sports fans who made the drive to Gold Strike for the occasion. He wore a limited-edition Drew Brees jersey and brought several caps from noteworthy teams in history. He placed several bets on the day’s baseball games, and one on the Alabama Crimson Tide to win the college football national championship.

“It’s adult entertainment. As long as you don’t bet more than you can afford to lose, doesn’t make any difference whether it’s on the blackjack table or on a ballgame,” he said. “And it just makes them a little more interesting to watch, and that’s why this will do well here, especially during football season.”

Murrell drove 115 miles from his home in Finley, Tennessee.

“I’m about an hour and 45 minutes from here,” he explained. “So, it’s hard to come for a day. Hardly ever have we come for a day and not spent the night.”

Tsai claimed that sports gambling typically accounts for less than three percent of a casino’s revenue, so the addition of a sports book in and of itself will not have a tremendous impact on its balance sheet. But just as Murrell said he often stays the night at a casino, Tsai mentioned that visitors who bet on sports usually play table games and spend money at the casino’s bars and restaurants.

“We’re hoping,” Tsai said, “that this will open Gold Strike and Tunica to a new segment of customers that maybe hasn’t come down to Gold Strike before, or maybe doesn’t come down very often.”

According to the Delaware Lottery, which oversees sports gambling in the state, players made nearly 70,000 wagers in the first 20 days it was offered. Those bets brought in more than $1 million in revenue, resulting in $438,000 in taxes.

New Jersey reported $3.5 million in revenue for its casinos and $293,000 in taxes in its first 17 days. New Jersey taxes sports wagers at a much lower rate than Delaware.

“It’s the tax dollars,” Murrell said. “The all-mighty tax dollar. It means a lot. One thing I could never understand about Arkansas not legalizing anything.

“I’ve been around the world two or three times, and this is something that has been really good for Mississippi. And I think it would be fabulous for Arkansas, but that’s just me.”

© 2018 KTHV

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