Sports betting begins in Mississippi

Published 7:55 am Thursday, August 2, 2018

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) — Legalized sports betting is now available in Mississippi.

Mississippi became the fourth state in the nation Wednesday to offer sports wagering. The others are Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey.

The first bets in Mississippi were simultaneously taken at noon at Beau Rivage Resort & Casino on the Gulf Coast and at its sister property, Gold Strike Casino Resort, in Tunica.

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News outlets report former NFL players Willis McGahee and Robert Royal were among those in Biloxi to celebrate with Beau Rivage executives.

“It’s going to be a party in here,” McGahee said, adding “It was a blessing” to be invited to become part of history.

The legalization comes 26 years — to the day — after Isle of Capri in Biloxi became the first legal casino in the state on Aug. 1, 1992. The sports betting law went into effect following a Supreme Court ruling in May that allowed such bets to be offered in places besides Nevada.

The seven-window sports book at the Beau mimics the casino’s architecture, making it look like it’s always been there. What was the Coast nightclub, and until Saturday night a piano bar, was transformed into the Sports Book & Bar in time for Wednesday’s opening. With about 18 television screens, theater seating and a bar that wraps around most of the rooms, it’s ready for the start of football season.

“This is a banner day for Beau Rivage and all of Mississippi and we are proud to lead the way on the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” said Bill Boasberg, the casino’s president & chief operating officer. “Here in the heart of the South, home to some of the most ardent sports fans in the world, we open a whole new era of sports entertainment and we do it on the eve of football season. What could be better?”

David Tsai, president and chief operating officer of Gold Strike, heralded the arrival of sports betting with his customers and employees in Tunica.

“This is a defining moment in Gold Strike’s nearly 24-year history,” Tsai said. “Sports fans have long waited for this day and we are proud to be the first to offer our customers this exciting new opportunity to engage with their favorite sports and teams.”

Also placing bets were Danny Sheridan, sports analyst for the USA Today network and state Rep. Richard Bennett of Long Beach who helped author the legislation that paved the way for Mississippi to get into the sports betting arena.

“What a great day for Mississippi,” Bennett said.

Other Coast casinos are also eager to start taking bets with opening dates of their own. They all need regulatory approval before their sports books open. In some cases, third-party vendors must be approved as well. Those approvals likely will be ratified at the Mississippi Gaming Commission’s Aug. 16 meeting.

Caesars Entertainment announced Monday their Mississippi properties, Harrah’s Gulf Coast and Horseshoe Tunica, are aiming at opening their sports books in mid-August.