The 30-day countdown is ticking to the start of sports betting in Mississippi and at least one Coast casino plans to be ready for opening day.
"Beau Rivage is on track to take wagers the day sports betting regulations go into effect," said Brandon Dardeau, vice president of marketing at MGM Resorts International's Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi.
"We have looked forward to offering sports wagering in Mississippi for many years," he said.
The countdown began Thursday when the Mississippi Gaming Commission adopted the regulations for sports betting. A 30-day waiting period makes Saturday, July 21, the first day sports bets can be placed at one of Mississippi's 28 casinos.
Planning and permitting is under way at most or all of the 12 casinos in South Mississippi. Those casino corporations that operate sports books in Las Vegas — such as MGM, Caesars Entertainment and Golden Nugget — are expected to open quickly.
Yet all the Coast casino managers who responded to the Sun Herald said they plan to offer sports betting. Some will start with temporary facilities while more lavish sports betting facilities are built similar to those at casinos in Las Vegas, the managers said.
Here is a rundown by casino:
"Construction has already begun on our provisional seven-window sports betting facility, which will be located outside the poker room," Dardeau said. "We’re currently in the process of hiring and training new sports book employees and finalizing our internal procedures.”
Help wanted ads also can be found on jobs websites for sports book staff at Harrah's Gulf Coast Casino, Scarlet Pearl Casino and Hard Rock Casino Biloxi, along with William Hill US, which provides sports book at casinos and other locations nationwide.
Golden Nugget Biloxi
"We've been working on plans since probably early spring,” said general manager Chett Harrison. “We'll be ready for football,” he said, and "in some form" for the opening of sports betting.
Michael Patrick's sports bar will become the center of sports betting and he said it will have the Vegas-style feel of sports book, where people can bet, dine and watch the games. "It's going to be great, he said, especially during football season, the Final Four and other big sporting events."
Hard Rock Biloxi
"We plan to be open by football season, just like everyone else," said general manager Todd Raziano.
Now that the Gaming Commission has adopted the rules, he said, the casinos have direction on what they need to do, and he said Hard Rock is looking at a couple of possible locations inside the casino to create an experience for sports betters.
Harrah's Gulf Coast
"We are looking forward to capitalizing upon this new opportunity, and to debut this new and exciting feature at our resort and casino," said general manager Jonathan Jones.
Harrah's is designing a space for sports betting and he said parent company, Caesars Entertainment, "has a fantastic infrastructure already in place for us to capitalize upon. We expect to give our guests the ability to wager on sports at Harrah’s beginning with the 2018 fall football season."
The timing for the start of sports betting is ideal at Island View, where the newly opened Beach Casino has a sports betting area in place. A sports betting counter also will be set up in the north casino, with betting kiosks at various locations.
Owners Rick Carter and Terry Green said customers also will be able to download an app on their smartphone or tablet to make bets only while on Island View property, in accordance with state regulations.
With Mississippi the only state in the Southeast where sports betting is legal gives Coast casinos a real advantage, Green said.
Sports betting will be centered around Contact sports bar, said general manager Keith Crosby, who said finding equipment is a challenge since the Supreme Court overturned the ban on sports betting.
“Suddenly there's a very large interest in a very limited amount of equipment,” he said. He expects to be ready by the start of football season and said, “I think that's what everyone's targeting.”
Sports betting is "a nice addition to what we offer," Crosby said, but doesn't figure to be a huge boost to casinos. "You couldn't get a seat in Contact during football without sports betting," he said.
The D'Iberville casino was one of the first on the Coast to announce it will have sports betting. CEO LuAnn Pappas said management was working on the possibility of sports betting ahead of the Supreme Court ruling.
“The timing could not be better as we are currently under construction for two spectacular food and beverage venues as added amenities for our guests,” she said, which are in addition to the sports betting facilities.
"We are definitely going to offer sports betting,” said general manager John Ferrucci, and will engage a third party vendor to oversee the operations. Parent company Full House Resorts does business with William Hill at its property in Nevada, he said.
At the Hancock County casino, "We have created an area on casino floor that has good visibility,” he said, and he envisions a live counter open several days a week plus a kiosk.
Players will be able to watch the games on the 20 televisions on the casino floor, Ferrucci said, and he hopes to be operational with sports betting by Sept. 1.
The Biloxi casino will have sports betting, said general manager Susan Varnes, and will work with one of the providers going through the licensing process with the Gaming Commission.
Meanwhile, she said, Treasure Bay is readying space on the first floor of the casino. She said people in the community are excited about legal sports betting, in a town long known for its illegal sports betting. She recently spoke to a woman who never bet on a sport, but said she will wager on her favorite team. "This will make it easy for them to bet with us," she said, in the spirit of routing for their team.
'Making the right moves'
Milton Segarra, executive director of Visit MS Gulf Coast, said the new smoke-free casino at Island View and the draw of sports betting in South Mississippi opens the area to a new demographic of players and groups to the region.
"We are making the right moves as a destination to expand and to be appealing to more visitors, proving we are a very diverse and welcoming destination." he said.
Optimism is high as Coast casino revenue remained strong at $107 million in May, compared to $104 million in May 2017. In April the Coast casinos posted their highest April revenue since the casinos opened in 1992.
Starting in July when sports betting begins, gross revenue on the sports book will be taxed at 12 percent and added to the monthly report by the Mississippi Department of Revenue and distributed to the state, county and local and school district accounts.
Boomtown, Hollywood Gulf Coast and IP casinos did not respond to requests for information about sports betting.