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Gary Trask

Gary  Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has worked as a writer and editor more than 20 years. The Boston native was a member of the Poker Hall of Fame's inaugural Media Committee and a current member of the Women in Poker Hall of Fame voting panel.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

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Mississippi primed to become 'Las Vegas South' with the introduction of sports betting

4 May 2018

By Gary Trask
As the entire sports betting world anxiously awaits a monumental Supreme Court decision in New Jersey, a sleeping giant sits and waits about 1,200 miles south of the Atlantic City Boardwalk.

If the Supreme Court, as most expect, announces the demise of PASPA (Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) in the coming weeks and opens the door for near-immediate regulated sports betting in New Jersey, close to 20 other U.S. states are expected to try to follow suit. But there’s one state in particular that is “sitting on a gold mine” if sports betting becomes legal, as renowned gaming and sports attorney Daniel Wallach said on Thursday as he hosted a panel titled “Sports Betting: Challenges and Opportunities” at the annual Southern Gaming Summit at the elegant Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi.

“Mississippi looms as sports betting giant,” said Wallach, of the firm Becker & Poliakoff. “To make a fitting analogy, Mississippi has a real chance to become the 'Belle of the Ball' when it comes to sports betting.”


I can already sense the skepticism and disbelief of those of you reading this who have never been to Mississippi or are not familiar with the rich history and current state of the gambling industry here. And if you’re in that camp, I beg you to hear me out. Wallach, as he usually is when it comes to the sports betting regulatory landscape, is on point. In fact, I will go so far as to predict that Mississippi could very easily become a destination that would rival — but not exceed — Las Vegas as a sports betting Mecca in the very near future, for a variety of reasons.

If you’re a regular reader of this space, you know of my fondness for the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I defy you to tell me of another area in the country that has a better and deeper variety of casinos, golf courses, authentic cuisine, optimal year-round weather and musical history. Toss sports betting into the equation, and this pristine coastal region, which offers 62 miles of scenic shoreline, goes from a must-visit locale to a must-visit-right-now destination.

But there are other considerations in play here, most notably the fact that sports betting legislation is already in place in The Magnolia State. That’s right: In 2017, very quietly, Mississippi adapted a daily fantasy sports bill and removed the language that was problematic for sports betting going forward.

“The change in language is subtle, but significant,” said Tommy Shepherd, a gaming attorney and partner at Jones Walker in Mississippi, who was described at the seminar as a “driving force” in the state’s gaming industry. “It completely changes the landscape.”

Because of this change in language, Mississippi is simply standing by, waiting for the Supreme Court to announce a decision that could come as early as 14 May but not any later than 25 June. If PASPA goes down as expected, Shepherd said things will move at “lightning speed” in Mississippi. When asked how soon a legal sports wager will be made within state lines after a New Jersey ruling, Shepherd predicted by Labor Day — which, not so ironically, is right around the time football kicks off, conveniently bringing us to another reason the state is in prime position to flourish with sports betting.

The addition of legalized sports betting in Mississippi would further enhance the already great choice of amenities at Beau Rivage Resort and Casino in Biloxi, as well as other properties in the state.

The addition of legalized sports betting in Mississippi would further enhance the already great choice of amenities at Beau Rivage Resort and Casino in Biloxi, as well as other properties in the state.

This is the Deep South, and if you haven’t heard, the good folks down here are fairly maniacal about their football. And when it comes to sports betting, football is the undisputed K-I-N-G. Working handsomely in Mississippi’s favor is not only the fierce football fandom in these parts, but the fact that all the other surrounding states are nowhere near passing any kind of sports betting legislation. That means Mississippi will literally be the only game in town when it comes to sports betting, drawing customers from the likes of Louisiana (New Orleans is an easy one-hour drive to Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, and the start of the Gulf Coast), Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee and Florida.

We’re talking about Mississippi having a regional sports betting monopoly, with the Gulf Coast and its roster of world-class casinos acting as Boardwalk.

“It will drive a whole new kind of customer to the area, and we estimate it will bring in an additional $50 to $150 million in gaming revenue,” Shepherd added emphatically.

Other areas of the state would of course also be huge benefactors. Tunica, a once-hot gaming destination that has seen a sharp decline in revenue over the last decade, sits less than an hour's drive from Memphis.

“Plain and simple, sports betting could save Tunica,” said Shepherd.

Sports betting operators like William Hill and technology providers like Sportradar and Scientific Games are already laying the groundwork. On Thursday, William Hill U.S. CEO Joe Asher sat in on the sports betting panel and discussed his affection for the area and why it could very well be his thriving company’s next big-time market.

As Asher spoke, the main casino of The Beau was a short escalator ride away. The floor, surrounded by an excellent choice of restaurants and bars, was bustling with an energetic clientele all week.

Close your eyes and imagine what The Beau could look like come September. Near-perfect 80-degree weather outside with miles upon miles of beach, nearly 20 highly acclaimed golf courses, big-name musical acts and hundreds of fine choices for locally caught and prepared seafood. Inside, you add a real live sportsbook to the mix, with large HD screens full of college football on a Saturday afternoon. The same scene could be played out at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino - Biloxi right next door, or down the other end of Beach Boulevard at Golden Nugget - Biloxi and Palace Casino Resort.

No, it’s not a dream, my fellow sports bettors. It's a reality that may very well come to fruition soon and create what we'll thrillingly call the "Las Vegas of the South" for years to come.

It's your move, SCOTUS.
 
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