By Mary Perez
BILOXI – Casino revenue has leveled off in Mississippi and other states but sports betting could be that new amenity consumers want, which will keep tax money rolling in, said Geoff Freeman, president of the American Gaming Association .
He brought the AGA’s “Get to Know Gaming” tour to IP Casino Resort Biloxi on Wednesday and said, “I’ve never been more optimistic about the prospects for legalized sports betting. Mississippi can benefit from that. The whole country can benefit from it.”
Fantasy sports really kicked off the conversation of sports betting nationwide. “People saw the interest that consumers had,” Freeman said.
“It begs the question, what’s the difference between that and betting on sports?” he said. “And why do we have the antiquated models we have?”
Since November, the AGA has studied sports betting and advocated for change. A survey showed 80 percent of Super Bowl viewers want to change current sports-betting law, and 65 percent believe regulated sports betting will either strengthen the integrity of games or have no impact on game outcomes.
Freeman said leagues and owners of sports franchises are increasingly speaking in favor of eliminating the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, passed in 1992, which prohibits sports gambling in most states.
“This law has failed miserably,” he said. Americans spend an estimated $150 billion a year betting on sports — only 3 percent of it legally.
Freeman said he thinks the best action is to repeal the federal law and give states the opportunity to treat sports betting as they do other gambling matters.
“If they wish to offer it, tremendous. If they choose not to offer it, that’s OK, too. But let’s give them the decision to make and get this out of Washington.”
Mississippi legislators have been extremely cautious about making any changes to the casino laws because of the opposition to gambling in some parts of the state.
But Larry Gregory, executive director of the Mississippi Hotel and Lodging Association, said sports betting may be the next big step in Mississippi’s 25 years of casinos.
“It could add another level to this platform of revenue and bring even more income to the state and its economy,” he said.