Top Ten Mississippi Gaming Stories of 2017

It is that time of the year when we take a look back and review the top stories of 2017 concerning the Mississippi gaming industry.

  1. Want to Take Any Bets? With the United States Supreme Court considering New Jersey’s appeal regarding the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, the Mississippi Gaming Commission considers preparations for legal sports books in Mississippi. If the Supreme Court rules in New Jersey’s favor, sports betting could become the top story for Mississippi gaming in 2018.
  2. Is This Real Life or Is This Just Fantasy? In its 2017 session, the Mississippi Legislature approved a bill that legalized Daily Fantasy Sports. While this development in itself was interesting, the most important aspect of the bill was buried deep inside—a slight amendment to the Mississippi Gaming Control Act to revise a provision that the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled long ago would prohibit sports betting at Mississippi casinos. See No. 1 above.
  3. And the Powerball Number Is… In 2017, the Mississippi Legislature authorized a commission to study the pros and cons of a potential lottery in Mississippi. The commission’s report did not recommend for or against a lottery for the Magnolia State, but with tighter state budgets, the lottery issue is not going away anytime soon.
  4. Silver Anniversary. On August 1, 1992, the Isle of Capri opened in Biloxi the first legal Mississippi casino. The industry celebrated its 25th anniversary this year at the Southern Gaming Summit with a panel presentation by the early pioneers of gaming in the state—Lyle Berman of Grand Casinos, Tim Hinkley of Isle of Capri, Jack Binion of Horseshoe, and State Senator Tommy Gollott.
  5. Third Time’s the Charm? RW Development brought forward for a second and a third time its proposed gaming site in Biloxi, which had previously been denied by the Mississippi Gaming Commission. The second and third applications met with a similar fate, and the actions by the Commission are on appeal to the Mississippi courts. Similarly, Diamondhead Real Estate filed another application for approval of its previously denied site in Hancock County, which was also denied again by the Commission. This decision is also on appeal to the courts.
  6. Bigger is Better. Penn National Gaming became the operator of the greatest number of casinos in Mississippi (total of five properties) with its purchase of Resorts Tunica and Bally’s Tunica (renamed 1st Jackpot Casino) for $44 million.
  7. Under Construction. Island View Casino in Gulfport announced a huge expansion of its existing casino project onto property located south of Highway 90. The $75 million Beach Casino at Island View is scheduled to open in the summer of 2018.
  8. Upping the Ante. Penn National Gaming announced at the end of the year that it was acquiring Pinnacle Entertainment, which also owns Ameristar Casino in Vicksburg. Closing on this acquisition will mean that Penn would own six Mississippi casinos.
  9. Minnow Swallows the Whale. In 2017, Eldorado Resorts, Inc., a family owned Nevada company, dramatically increased the size of the company, acquiring Isle of Capri Casinos, Inc. and its casinos in Vicksburg and Lula, Mississippi.
  10. Back in the Black. In 2017, Caesars Entertainment emerged from bankruptcy, putting the company and its three Mississippi casinos in position to return to profitability and strength.

What will Santa bring for 2018 in Mississippi gaming?

While a lot has happened with regard to the gaming industry in Mississippi in 2017, many questions arise with respect to 2018.

Is this the year for the lottery?

Lottery proponents for many years have introduced bills for a lottery in Mississippi, only to have such bills die in legislative committees. However, in 2016, the Mississippi House of Representatives actually voted in favor of a lottery measure on the floor of the House, and in 2017 the House voted to establish a lottery study committee. The House Lottery Study Committee has completed its work, and the Chairman says his committee will neither oppose nor recommend that Mississippi adopt a lottery. The Mississippi Gaming & Hospitality Association has stated that it will not support any type of lottery other than paper lottery tickets. There is some viable talk of amending any lottery proposal that reaches the floor of the House to include Video Lottery Terminals. That would clearly be an expansion of gaming and resistance is expected to such a move. Some voices remain to oppose a lottery and any additional form of gaming other than the current regulated casino industry and charitable bingo. However, a tighter than ever state budget just might be enough for legislators to swallow hard and vote for a lottery.

Will Mississippians be able to bet on sports (legally)?

In 2017, a Mississippi daily fantasy sports bill included an amendment that clarified a provision in the Mississippi Gaming Control Act that could open the door for sports betting in Mississippi.  Many legislators later objected, claiming that they did not know that the bill included this subtle but important change. While the constitutionality of the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act is under consideration by the United States Supreme Court, Mississippi may be preparing behind the scenes for sports betting if the Court provides a ruling that could be construed as favorable to such wagering in Mississippi. Will state leadership go along? Would the NCAA or the professional sports leagues file litigation to stop sports betting in Mississippi?

Mississippi Gaming Commission Considers Easing Restrictions on Institutional Investors

At the October 19, 2017, meeting of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, the Commission approved for publication, for receipt of public comment, a proposal to amend the Commission’s regulations on institutional investors.

Institutional investors under the Mississippi gaming regulations and those of other jurisdictions are certain defined banks, insurance companies, registered investment companies, registered investment advisors, collective trust funds, employee benefit plans and trust funds subject to ERISA, state or federal government pension plans and the like.

Under those regulations, institutional investors are typically permitted Continue Reading

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