March Madness boosts sports gambling revenue, but what does the future hold?

By Aaron Rice
April 26, 2019

The NCAA Tournament provided a big boost to Mississippi casinos in March as revenues from sports gambling nearly doubled February during an otherwise quiet time of the year. 

In March, total taxable revenue was $4.9 million versus $2.8 million in February. 

But while Mississippi was the first state in the Southeastern Conference blueprint to have legalized sports gambling after the Supreme Court overturned the federal ban, more players are entering the field and making it easier to wager on sports.

To place a bet on sports in Mississippi, you have to do it at a casino. That may be attractive for a destination event such as the Super Bowl or a major boxing match, but it’s likely not going to happen for an average basketball or baseball wager on a Tuesday night. That person will continue to use an illegal, offshore website, which costs the state revenue it would otherwise receive.

Meanwhile to the north, Tennessee is on the cusp of legalizing online sports gambling. While the Volunteer State does not have casinos, those interested in betting on a sporting event will be able to do so from their smartphone or computer. Obviously making it much easier, and more convenient to place a bet. 

This would likely have the biggest impact on the already declining revenue of Tunica casinos. Another casino is closing this summer, leaving the county with just six remaining casinos, a far cry from the boom of the 1990s when those six  were the only casino destinations for hundreds of miles. Gaming payrolls peaked at 13,000 in Tunica in 2001, but they are down to less than 5,000 today. 

Today, it’s much easier to find a casino near your house, including one in West Memphis, Arkansas. 

So while the Mississippi legislature had the vision to approve sports gambling when it was still illegal, pending the Supreme Court decision that gave authority back to the states, the limitations on where the consumer can bet will likely hurt the state as sports gambling becomes more common place across the country. 


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