Mississippi Sports Betting Handle Quintuples Thanks To Football

The start of the NFL season brought an additional $31.7 million worth of bets for Mississippi's struggling casino gambling market.
Mississippi Casino Sports Betting Revenue
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Not to be outdone by its gambling rivals, the state of Mississippi on Monday announced September sports betting results, and the figures were impressive.

After seeing $6.3 million worth of wagers in August, the first month of Magnolia State sports betting, the casino industry took $31.7 million in bets last month, a fivefold increase month-over-month.

The casinos won $5.5 million on the handle, an increase of 754% over the nearly $650,000 won in August. NCAA and NFL football were the reasons, as football is the most popular sport for wagering. Football accounted for nearly $4 million of the revenue (more than 70%).

The win percentage was 17.3, much higher than the 5.1% hold Nevada casinos averaged across 2017.

Thanks in part to sports wagering, Mississippi’s casino industry won $182.8 million overall in September, up 8.7% year-over-year from $168.1 million, according to state figures.

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Outside of the gridiron

Football was lucrative for the books, while baseball took a bite out of their fortunes. Mississippi casinos actually lost more than $100,000 on September baseball wagers.

However, it’s worth noting that parlays make up a separate category. Mississippi casinos won $1.4 million on those bets. The “other category,” which includes sports like golf, tennis, boxing, MMA and so on, netted the books nearly $180,000.

Baseball could turn around in the next revenue report, thanks to the popularity of postseason play, especially the World Series. It’s worth noting that the $31.7 million handle includes futures bets that haven’t played out yet.

Brick-and-mortar betting

According to the American Gaming Association, Mississippi has 13 land-based casinos, 15 riverboat casinos (those connected to a waterway) and three tribal casinos.

Two dozen of those properties have kicked off sports betting since Beau Rivage Resort & Casino and Gold Strike Casino Resort got the party started on Aug. 1.

As will be the case in many states approving the new casino offering, the added gaming revenue couldn’t have come at a better time for the Mississippi gambling market.

Mississippi’s commercial casinos won $2.08 billion from gamblers in 2017, down 2% compared to the $2.12 billion won in 2016. The decline followed modest gains the previous two years. The state was one of just four jurisdictions that saw a gambling market contraction last year as growth on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast was offset by declines in the Mississippi River markets.

Mississippi’s casino industry supports about 33,000 jobs and generates nearly $1.4 billion in wages, benefits and tips. The stakes were high for state lawmakers and regulators after mid-May’s Supreme Court ruling, and they didn’t balk at the opportunity.

It’s worth noting that Mississippi’s first casino opened in 1992, the same year as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. So, the state never really had a chance to be grandfathered in like Nevada.

Competition in the region

The nearest sports betting state to Mississippi is West Virginia, so Magnolia State casinos are currently enjoying some regional exclusivity. However, neighboring Louisiana is looking at sports betting.

According to the AGA, Louisiana was the most significant feeder market for Mississippi casinos in 2016, accounting for more than 13.5% of total casino visitors.

In the effort to stay ahead of the curve, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant went as far as to sign a bill that removed the statewide sports betting prohibition about two months before the Supreme Court ruled. The sports-betting provision was part of a broader bill to permanently legalize fantasy sports wagering.

Years ago, the state was one of the most progressive on the online poker front, so its quick action on sports wagering wasn’t too surprising. However, unlike its sports betting peers, Mississippi is not all in on mobile just yet.

Mobile betting: just on-site for now

Thanks to mobile, New Jersey’s sports betting industry took $183.9 million in wagers last month, an increase of 92% over the $95.6 million put on the line in August. Mississippi will have to adjust its regulations to allow for mobile in order to get close to the Garden State. Mobile accounted for 56% of the New Jersey handle.

Currently in Mississippi, you can only bet online while physically at one of the two dozen casinos with sportsbooks.

The lack of mobile in Mississippi prompted former Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairman Mark Lipparelli, who led the Silver States’s foray into online casino gaming, to write an op-ed in September calling for Mississippi regulators to make an adjustment.

“The absence of modern, internet-based mobile betting will have a serious negative impact on the state’s ability to develop a successful and safe legal sports betting market,” said Lipparelli, who has also testified in front of Congress with regards to online gaming. According to Lipparelli, Mississippians bet as much as $1.4 billion through illegal sportsbooks.

September sports betting numbers aren’t yet out for Nevada, which also has a robust mobile segment, but the casinos there have averaged $450 million in handle over the past five Septembers. Some industry folks expect New Jersey to eventually overtake Nevada.

It’s worth noting that Mississippi has about 2.9 million people, about the same as Nevada. However, Mississippi doesn’t enjoy the luxury of 40 million annual visitors to its casinos. New Jersey’s population is more than nine million, which further fuels the sentiment that it could surpass the state with the nation’s oldest casino industry.

West Virginia, another state with active sports betting, has just 1.8 million people, but it’s also reaping the rewards of launching this fall ahead of its neighbors. The launch of sports betting at a West Virginia casino near the Maryland border could help stop the flow of gambling dollars to casinos closer to D.C. Not to mention, West Virginia has clear plans to take sports betting fully online.

All states are looking at capitalizing on a nationwide sports betting market that could reach $5.2 billion (paywall) by 2023, assuming more than two dozen states have regulated the activity.

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