Football is the game of choice, but who is making the bets?
One of the most recognized names in fantasy sports, FanDuel is entering the new legalized sports betting market in Mississippi.
On Thursday, the sports betting operation at IP Casino Resort in Biloxi, which debuted Aug. 3, will be re-branded FanDuel Sportsbook.
Mississippi athletes and former New Orleans Saints stars — Michael Lewis, Derland Moore, Marcus Dupree and Dalton Hilliard — will place the first four bets during the 2 p.m. ceremony.
Mississippi is the first state where FanDuel is partnering with Boyd Gaming, IP’s parent company, to brand a sportsbook. It comes under an agreement that will connect Boyd and its 29 casinos across 10 states, after the completion of two pending acquisitions, with 8 million FanDuel customers in 45 states.
FanDuel’s initial entry into the world of retail sports betting came July 14 at The Meadowlands in New Jersey.
Having two retail sports betting locations in Mississippi, at IP and at Sam’s Town in Tunica, is a way for those who already know the FanDuel brand to have a new experience with sports betting, said Matt King, CEO of FanDuel Group.
The sportsbook at IP Casino is adjacent to Highlights Sports Lounge. Customers will see FanDuel signs and consistent branding at the IP and at all the locations it opens, said King.
As the investment grows, “A number of these builds go through phases, where you have phase 1, phase 2 and phase 3,” King said. “The Meadowlands is already on phase 3 and it’s only been open for eight weeks.”
FanDuel will focus on giving customers the information they need to make intelligent bets, King said — “Creating an experience where casual and more sophisticated sports fans feel comfortable.”
The FanDuel Sportsbook at IP will continue to be operated by Boyd Gaming, which has 40 years of experience in sports betting in Nevada.
“The odds will still be run through the Boyd team,” said David Strow, spokesman for Boyd.
FanDuel will also operate mobile and online sports betting for Boyd Gaming in states where it is legal. But for now, fans must be at a casino in Mississippi to place a bet. State law will permit use of a phone app at a casino, although it hasn’t yet been approved for any property in the state.
King said FanDuel will use its own app in Mississippi to give customers the best experience. “We’re still working through plans for the launch,” he said.
FanDuel is one of the biggest players betting on horse races, he said, but he doesn’t know when it might come to Mississippi.
Mississippi has the distinction of being the only state in the South and the powerful Southeastern Conference college football league to have sports betting, said Strow.
Just as fans were drawn to Nevada when it was the lone state where full sports betting was legal, people from other states now have an incentive to come to Mississippi, he said.
In the first weeks of professional and college football and sports betting at IP Casino, “Action has actually been heavier on Saturdays than Sunday,” Strow said. That’s the opposite of Las Vegas, where he said betting peaks on Sunday during football season.
King says he’s not surprised to see this trend in Mississippi.
“I went to school in North Carolina so I’m familiar with the phenomenon of college football being more important than NFL football,” he said.