2021 Mississippi Milestones
Mobile Wagering Legislation Has No Legs — Yet
Coast Senators Scott Delano and Philip Moran and others introduced bills (SB 2732, SB 2396, and HB 1042) to allow mobile sports betting statewide in an effort to enable Mississippi sports wagering to fend off competition from surrounding states. Alas, all mobile sports wagering bills stalled out in committee. Delano believes 2022 could be the year for Mississippi to finally adopt mobile sports wagering statewide. Indeed, state House Gaming Committee Chairman Casey Eure is reported to be working on such legislation for the 2022 session.
Rollin’ on the (Pearl) River
Senator John Horhn filed SB 2395, a bill to authorize gaming on the Pearl River in the city of Jackson. It also died in committee.
Not Just the Lone Ranger
While COVID-19 raged throughout the United States, the Mississippi Gaming Commission, like others, instituted a mask mandate and social distancing requirements, including an occupancy limit of 50%. These restrictions remained in place until lifted effective April 30, 2021. Some casinos continued mask mandates despite their being no statewide government-imposed mandate.
“Locally Mobile” Sports Wagering
In the fall of 2021, Gold Strike Casino, and then its sister property Beau Rivage, in partnership with BetMGM, began offering mobile sports wagering, limited to each of the casino properties, not off-site.
Sand Beach Tug-of-War
For years, RW Development has attempted to build a casino at its location on Veterans Avenue in Biloxi. Several times, the Mississippi Gaming Commission has ruled that the construction of a casino on the site is illegal because the site does not have access to the mean high water line due to the state-owned sand beach. The Mississippi Supreme Court has affirmed the commission’s actions. In 2021, the City of Biloxi and Harrison County sought to lease the sand beach to RW for development of a pier. The Secretary of State sued, asserting it has sole control of the sand beach. While a Chancery Court has ruled in favor of the city and county, the Secretary of State has appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Despite the pandemic, Mississippi casinos were on pace in 2021 to exceed $2.6 billion in revenue, a mark not met in a long time. Coast casinos recorded some of their biggest months ever.
Cruisin’ to Silver
Cruisin’ the Coast celebrated its silver anniversary with record attendance.
Newly appointed Gaming Commissioner Franc Lee replaced Commissioner Jerry Griffith, and longtime Commission Executive Director Allen Godfrey retired. The commission named Deputy Director Jay McDaniel as the new executive director.
Mississippi casinos, like other businesses, struggled to fill vacant job positions, even when offering increased pay, signing bonuses, and other benefits. Stimulus money, COVID-19, and employee compensation were often cited as reasons for the worker shortage.
In 2021, the biggest news for the Mississippi gaming industry perhaps lies across the borders in adjacent states. From the potential for moving a casino license from Shreveport to Slidell in Louisiana to sports wagering in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Tennessee, and looming competition in Alabama, risks and challenges abound.