Sports betting could happen in Mississippi by July

TUNICA, MS (WMC) - The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a federal ban on sports betting that essentially gave Nevada a monopoly.

Now, other states can decide for themselves whether to get in on the action.

It is a big decision, as a lot of the sports betting was already going on under the table.

Now, Mississippi casinos could offer a place for you to legally place your bets.

Monday the U.S. Supreme Court opened the door for states to allow legalized betting on sports events.

The news spread online like wildfire and on the ground in Tunica.

Webster Franklin is the president and CEO of the Tunica Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"My phone hasn't rung as much in a long time as it has when people started getting alerts saying the Supreme Court has changed the law," Franklin said.

Mississippi lawmakers in 2017 quietly legalized sports betting at casinos in anticipation of a ruling like this.

The state's gaming commission says regulatory processes and conversations with casino operators are already in the works, meaning sports betting could be taking place at casinos across Mississippi come fall.

"We are a sports-minded culture down here," said Allen Godfrey, Executive Director Mississippi Gaming Commission. "People love their sports and I think they'd like to bet a little on their spots."

Gaming has slumped in Tunica down from a high of $1.1 billion in gross gaming revenue in 2006 to roughly $575 million now.

Area tourism leaders don't believe sports betting will spur massive casino redevelopment, but they do say it could draw a different, younger crowd to Tunica, especially on the weekends.

"I think it will be a good amenity and it will bring a new segment I think to the Tunica market that might not otherwise be coming today," Franklin said.

Vegas won't be home to the only casinos hoping to take your sports bets.

With the Supreme Court ruling, Mississippi casinos are expected to get in on the game.

Facilities like MGM Grand Las Vegas could be coming to Tunica casinos with multiple operators indicating they'll welcome the addition of sports betting to their properties.

"That might be what bring them back you know, bring more people to Tunica," said Jonathan Smith from Tunica.

In 2017, Mississippi lawmakers quietly approved sports betting at casinos if the Supreme Court allowed it.

But the regulations will not permit remote betting.

"Our law is that it has to be played on the licenses gaming facility, so you have to physically come in and place your bet," Godfrey said.

"We will see a lot of people come to Mississippi and in particular Tunica that might not have otherwise come and hopefully they will see what they like and we can take advantage of it here," Franklin said.

Leaders in Tunica are betting on increased foot traffic.

"Sports betting is something that Mississippi has the foresight to get in front of and hopefully it will propel us in the future," Franklin said.

Franklin said though positive, sports gaming won't spur long term development.

What he thinks needs to happen to build a modern casino strip in Tunica is for lawmakers to get rid of the requirement that they float.

"I think for the industry to really propel and from the statewide perspective we might need to look at changing the law to allow the casinos to come on land in existing jurisdictions like Tunica," Franklin said.

The gaming commission said sports betting could be operational in Mississippi casinos in 45 days.

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