From Friday, Penn National Gaming’s five Mississippi properties will enter the state’s nascent sports betting market, effectively doubling its size.
The company announced its Hollywood Casino Gulf Coast and Boomtown Casino in Biloxi would launch full sportsbooks on August 17, with its three Tunica properties excepted to follow a week later.
Hollywood Casino Tunica, 1st Jackpot Casino Tunica, and Resorts Casino Tunica will all open sports betting operations on August 24, said PNG.
Mississippi legalized sports betting last year in anticipation that the US Supreme Court would strike down PASPA, which it did in mid-May. PASPA was the federal law that prohibited state-sanctioned sports betting.
The Mississippi Gaming Commission approved a framework of regulation on June 21, setting in motion a 30-day waiting period for prospective licensees. The first mover was MGM Resorts, whose Beau Rivage Resort and Casino in Biloxi and Gold Strike Casino in Tunica began booking sports on August 1.
Boyd’s IP Casino Resort in Biloxi and Sam’s Town in Tunica followed two days later, while Caesars Entertainment’s Horseshoe in Tunica joined the market five days ago.
All Eyes on NFL
Mississippi’s casinos are positioned to do well from sports betting. While the vertical is no magic bullet, accounting only for around 2 percent of casino revenues, casinos are hoping it will attract more visitors from neighboring states who are likely to spend money on other games.
Mississippi is surrounded by conservative states that — with the exception of Louisiana — have eschewed casino gaming. This year Louisiana rejected a bill that sought to legalize sports betting, meaning Mississippi’s closest current competitor is West Virginia, some 500 miles away.
While no figures on the new sector’s revenues will be available until the end of August, operators are reporting smooth launches and are quietly optimistic. President and COO of Gold Strike David Tsai told The Times-Picayune this week that the advent of the NFL season in September will give operators a clearer picture.
“The handle has been lower than we expect long-term,” Tsai said. “…The better gauge for long-term volumes will be once football season kicks off in September. That said, our handle and betting volumes already exceed that in many Vegas casinos. We are seeing hundreds of guests coming on property to place sports wagers in our new sports book.”
As the largest casino operator by number of states, PNG has the potential market access to sports betting that others can only dream of. The finalization of its acquisition of Pinnacle Entertainment next quarter will further increase its footprint.
The company is said to be in talks with William Hill over a nationwide sportsbook partnership, but there is no indication that a deal has been struck or that the Mississippi sports books will be branded with the logo of the British bookmaker when they launch today.