U.S. Markets

Mississippi casinos not ready for sports betting as laws take effect

(Reuters) - Mississippi casinos won’t be ready to roll out sports betting over the weekend, when the state’s month-long waiting period on the newly legal form of gambling expires, Mississippi’s gaming commissioner told Reuters in a recent interview.

FILE PHOTO: A man smokes as he plays a slot machine at the Island View Casino in Gulfport, Mississippi November 9, 2009. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

The Gardenia State’s casinos that have applied to offer athletics wagering as early as Sunday are still carving out space in their businesses to build sports bars and working to meet other state requirements before they can be approved, Commissioner Allen Godfrey said.

“Right now, the ones wanting to get started are still in the renovation phase,” he said, noting it will likely be another two weeks before a casino is approved to take sports bets.

As of Thursday, 13 of Mississippi’s 28 riverboat and land-based casino properties under the purview of the state’s gaming commission had applied to offer sportsbooks, he said. Eventually, all 28 are expected to be approved for sports betting.

So far, none of the businesses have applied to run sports betting on cell phones or other mobile devices, Godfrey said. When they do, mobile sports wagering will be restricted to casino grounds.

Mississippi is still positioned to become the third state in the nation to launch sports betting since a U.S. Supreme Court decision on May 14 ended a ban on the industry.

Its is the only state in the U.S. South to have legalized gambling on athletics. West Virginia, whose closest border to Mississippi is about 500 miles away, is the nearest such state.

That distance could lure residents from across the region to gamble on athletics in Mississippi. But the competitive advantage will likely last only as long as it remains the South’s lone sports wagering state.

Currently, Mississippi’s casino industry generates roughly $352 million annually in state and local taxes and $323 million in federal tax revenue, according to the Mississippi Gaming Association.

How much revenue state coffers will gain from sports betting is unknown. Annual illegal athletics wagering totals roughly $150 billion domestically, according to the American Gaming Association, a casino interest group.

But generally, states are not expected to see a windfall from sports gambling taxes. Casinos generally take in about 5 percent of all bets on athletics, the American Gaming Association says, with the rest paid out in winnings. States will collect taxes on that 5 percent.

In Mississippi, sports betting revenue will be taxed at 8 percent by the state and at up to 4 percent by local governments.

Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Daniel Bases and Dan Grebler