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It is an old saying that “out of something bad often comes something good”. Those words may affect the future of sports wagering for bettors in Mississippi based on reviewing the most recent February report.
Gaming revenues in Mississippi fell noticeably in February, with sports betting declining almost 30%. The Mississippi Gaming Commission’s report for the month revealed the state’s casinos brought in $172.4 million in revenue, down 12.7% from January’s $194.3 million.
The category of sports wagering dropped 29.4% to $47.8 million after January’s record handle of $67.7 million. Taxable revenue from sports betting in February was $4.6 million after January’s $9.11 million, a severe decline of 49.5%.
A few reasons were obvious that other US states involved with legalized sports wagering have experienced and have been reflected in their February monthly reports. The calendar yielded three fewer days than January plus one large sport betting weekend. And although February included Super Bowl LV it did not have several NFL playoff games plus the carryover of the NCAA college football bowls included.
On the casino side, February 2021 slots handle was $1.7 billion, a 14.4% decline from $2 billion in January 2021, and a dip of 9.1% from $1.9 billion in February 2020.
The month’s casino table games handle was $135.5 million, 11.7% down from January’s $153.4 million, and 15.8% below the February 2020 figure of $161 million.
The positives included a monthly sports wagering increase vs February 2020 plus increases in basketball wagering from the previous year.
Basketball proved to be the most popular sport attracting 60% of all sports wagers in the state for a total of $28,689,425.72. Football was a distant second with only $7,914,477.64 in bets during the month, but obviously, all accrued from Super Bowl Sunday.
February’s report reflected a win percentage of 9.64% down 4.26% on January’s percentage of 13.46%. Still, a positive sign for Mississippi as sportsbook operators typically forecast a win percentage of approximately 6-8%.
Biloxi remains the main gambling hub in the Magnolia State and no surprise the largest majority of wagering handle originates there. Of the $47.8 million wagered in February, $34.6 million came from Coastal Casino operations. That is a 76.15% hold of the total betting handle for the month.
The second most wagers came from Central operations in the state of $7.4 million, with the remaining $5.3 million coming from Northern Casino operations.
The true reason Mississippi is not reaching its sports wagering potential is the frustration they’ve faced getting online wagering to pass through the legislature. Three well-conceived bills aiming to expand sports wagering in the state to mobile platforms died through committee in early February.
Mississippi was one of the first states to launch sports betting in 2018 but continues to be restricted to retail onsite sportsbooks. Multiple mobile betting bills have failed in the years following legalization.
Currently, mobile betting is allowed on a casino’s property in the state although none of the state’s commercial casinos are using the so-called “Mississippi mobile” option.
SB 2396 Mississippi would have allowed each casino operator an online sportsbook. As an alternative SB 2732 and HB 1042 proposed expanding existing state legislation to carry online betting statewide.
While February’s decline may not get legislators to act immediately, it likely will get them to reflect upon the opportunity they are missing upon. Nearby neighboring state Tennessee is thriving with an “online-only” policy, announcing record handles thus far. Alabama is discussing legalized wagering while the major bomb of competition awaits from Texas and Florida.
It is certainly March Madness and the NCAA Basketball Tournament will bring sports wagering handle and casino numbers back next month. Overall, it would not be unexpected to see talks re-emerge for Mississippi to consider online wagering more seriously as part of their near future plans.
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Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.
Email: [email protected]
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