TOP 10 of 2018: Vicksburg casinos get in on legal sports betting game

Published 7:33 pm Thursday, December 27, 2018

Editor’s Note: This is the No. 3 story in The Vicksburg Post’s Top 10 stories of 2018.

Three of Vicksburg’s four casinos entered a new gaming market in August with the start of sports betting.

Officials with Riverwalk, Ameristar and Waterview casinos opened sports betting venues in their casinos complete with ribbon cutting ceremonies, wide screen TVs and Mayor George Flaggs Jr. and favored customers placing the first bets.

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The openings came about three months after the U.S. Supreme Court voted 6-3 to strike down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, a 1992 law that barred state-authorized sports gambling with exceptions for Nevada, Montana, Oregon and Delaware, states that had approved some form of sports wagering before the law took effect.

Nevada was the only state where a person could wager on the results of a single game, though the law didn’t cover wagering between friends or animal races, such as horse racing, which many states already allowed.

One month later, in June, the Mississippi Gaming Commission approved regulations passed by the Mississippi Legislature in 2017 to allow sports betting as part of a bill legalizing and regulating fantasy sports, and Aug. 2, the first bets in Mississippi were at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino on the Gulf Coast and the Gold Strike Casino Resort in Tunica.

Aug. 23, Riverwalk Casino opened its sports betting area. The casino was the first Vicksburg casino to open a sports betting area.

Eight days later, Ameristar and WaterView casinos opened their sports betting venues.

Gamble pays off

The state’s decision to open sports betting has apparently paid off.

State gaming statistics for October, the first month where results were compiled, indicated bettors placed wagers totaling $31.77 million on football games and other sporting events during September, translating into $5.5 million in taxable revenue, according to information from the Mississippi Gaming Commission.

More money was bet on football and baseball than any other sport.

According to statistics from the commission, sports wagers for the state’s Central District, which includes Vicksburg, totaled $2.9 million, translating into $470,564 in taxable revenue. Of that total, $2.26 million bets were placed on football games, with $453,611 placed on baseball.

Locally, officials with the three Vicksburg Casinos with sports betting venues said in October sports betting had been a strong draw to bring people into their businesses.

“We’ve had a lot of people coming in who have previously been sports book bettors, but also new people who want to learn how to do it,” said Penny Bankston, vice president and general manager of WaterView Casino. “The majority of our bets are coming in on the parlays, where you bet on multiple teams on the outcome. We’ve seen a nice little lift from having it open.”

Gerad Hardy, vice president and general manager of Ameristar Casino, said sports betting “has certainly met our expectations in terms of what we thought it would do here, driving visitations and bringing new faces into the casino that we haven’t seen in a while.

“It’s done what we thought it would do and we’re optimistic that it will continue to grow. We’re seeing bets across the board, but college football is the number one draw we’re seeing so far. People love their home teams.”

“We’re very, very excited about it,” Mary Beth Wilkes, marketing director at Riverwalk Casino said. “We’re seeing new guests coming through and dropping in and visiting. We’re very pleased. It’s an absolute positive.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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