Smaller Mississippi Casinos Remain Opposed To Mobile Betting

November 29, 2023
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Mississippi’s Mobile Online Sports Betting Task Force wrapped up its series of meetings on Tuesday with opposition remaining from smaller casino operators to expanding the state’s sports-betting offerings.
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Mississippi’s Mobile Online Sports Betting Task Force wrapped up its series of meetings on Tuesday (November 28) with opposition remaining from smaller casino operators to expanding the state’s sports-betting offerings.

The task force was formed earlier this year at the request of the Mississippi House of Representatives to look into potential models for expanding from the state’s current market, which allows betting at licensed casinos and mobile betting on-site, to include full state-wide mobile sports betting.

A majority of the state’s casinos are in favor of expanding to mobile betting, according to a draft report from the Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review (PEER).

The PEER committee surveyed the state’s 26 licensed casinos, and found that 19 responded in favor of state-wide mobile sports betting, with one opposed, and the other six not responding, according to Casey Eure, the chairman of the task force.

However, smaller casino operators pointed out that among owners, the split would be more stark, with ten ownership groups in favor and six opposed.

Donn Mitchell, co-owner of Foundation Gaming and Entertainment, which owns two casinos in the state, reinforced the company’s opposition, arguing that even if the legislation permitted each casino to have multiple skins, the reality is that the market will remain dominated by several larger operators.

“Clearly through my comments, we’re opposed to it,” Mitchell said. “We will be forced to engage in it from a competitive standpoint, and we'll have to offer that product to our customers.

“We'll have an operator, we've got somebody that we would work with, and the reality is we'll be fighting with the other dozen operators in the state for the miniscule 10 percent of whatever that market is that was going to be available to us,” he added.

“And meanwhile, lose 90 percent of your retail [sports wagering revenue],” added Cathy Beeding, general manager of the Churchill Downs-owned Riverwalk Casino.

The challenge smaller casino operators participating in the task force were presented with is providing input towards a bill that they will ultimately oppose.

“Knowing that I'm gonna have a bill, you might not agree with the bill, but I still want your input,” Eure told the group Tuesday. “Let's talk about ... what the bill should look like and what you can live with and what could be best for the state of Mississippi, while at the same time protecting bricks-and-mortar [casino operations].”

Eure also insisted that his forthcoming bill will not include online casino games, a provision that smaller operators strongly oppose and fear that mobile sports betting is only a first step toward.

Tuesday's meeting was the third meeting of the task force, which took testimony from a variety of industry stakeholders.

"My priorities are the same as Casey's; to protect the tens of thousands of jobs direct and indirect that are associated with what has been a successful industry in Mississippi,” added Senator David Blount, a Democrat and co-chair of the committee. 

“I think this task force has been helpful, “ he added. “There's more time to talk and work through things in a task force than we have in the legislative session. 

“It forces people to talk to each other, even if they have differences, and that's what we've tried to do here.”

Eure has maintained he will file a mobile sports betting bill in 2024. The state’s legislative session begins on January 2 and runs through May 5.

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