The first sports bet in Mississippi will come on Aug. 1, which is 26 years to the day after the first casino in the state opened in Biloxi in 1992.
The initial wagers are expected to be placed simultaneously at about noon at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi and at Gold Strike Casino in Tunica. Sports books at the two MGM Resorts International casinos will then open to the public.
Placing the first bets at the Beau Rivage will be:
▪ Willis McGahee, former Miami Hurricanes running back and 2-time NFL Pro Bowler
▪ Robert Royal, former Louisiana State Tigers tight end and NFL star
▪ Legendary oddsmaker Danny Sheridan
▪ Mississippi Hotel and Hospitality Association Executive Director Larry Gregory, who also is former director of the Mississippi gaming Commission
IP Casino in Biloxi and Sam’s Town in Tunica, both Boyd Gaming properties, also are shooting for an early August opening pending approval from the Mississippi Gaming Commission, said David Strow, Boyd director of corporate communications.
So for the first weekend or two of the NFL pre-season games, the state could have four casinos taking wagers.
The launch of sports betting comes 10 days after Mississippi’s sports betting regulations took effect on July 22. Mississippi is the third state, following Delaware and New Jersey, to allow sports betting since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the federal ban in May. And Mississippi is the only state in the South to have sports betting this season.
Quick in the game
Representatives of all 12 Coast casinos told the Sun Herald they will offer sports betting.
Caesars said in a press release that Harrah’s Gulf Coast Casino in Biloxi and Horseshoe Tunica will open in mid-August through a collaboration with Scientific Games.
Most, if not all, of the other Coast casinos are expected to open their sports book by the start of the regular football season in early September. By a wide margin, more bets are placed on football than any other sport.
Building sports book facilities, finding equipment, hiring managers with sports betting experience and training other staff, all in just three months, has been a challenge for the Coast casinos.
At the Beau Rivage, Will Hall was hired as race and sports book manager and he is overseeing training of the new sports book employees. Construction is complete on the seven-window sports betting counter outside the poker room.
While that area will be fully functional as a sports book, work is beginning to convert what was the Coast nightclub and piano bar into a sports book and bar. When that debuts, the entire area will be open to the casino and fans will be able to place bets, order food and beverages and watch the games.
At IP and Sam’s Town casinos, “Most of our construction is now complete,” said Strow. George Cole, previously the director of race and sports for the Aliante Casino Hotel in North Las Vegas, was hired as the sports director to oversee both operations. He has worked for Boyd Gaming since 2010.
Who’s on first
In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy placed the first two bets at the Meadowlands race track, one on Germany to win the World Cup and one of the New Jersey Devils to win next year’s Stanley Cup.
The first bet at an Atlantic City Casino came 30 minutes later at the Borgata, when NBA great Julius Erving, aka Dr. J, bet $5 on the Philadelphia Eagles to repeat as Super Bowl champions.
The Borgata, like the Beau Rivage, is an MGM Resorts property and Marcus Glover, its chief operating officer, previously was CEO at the Beau Rivage.
A sure bet?
The new CEO of Beau Rivage, New Orleans native Bill Boasberg, is opening the sports book just ahead of the start of preseason NFL games on Aug. 2.
Betting on horse racing is expected to come a few weeks or months after the sports books open at Mississippi casinos.
Although sports betting isn’t a big money-maker for casinos, it is expected to draw new people and excitement to the casinos right from the start.
Delaware, in the first 20 days of sports betting, saw 69,698 wagers and $7 million in bets, along with about $1 million in tax revenue for the state. The first 17 days in New Jersey brought $16.4 million in wagers.