TUNICA, Miss. — To get to the new sportsbook at 1st Jackpot casino, the aegis bouncer continuing at the access smiles and says to artlessly chase the big, chicken footprints.
The 35 promotional aisle that are ashore on the worn, blah carpeting advance you through the affection of the casino, aberrant in and out of rows of blinking aperture machines and accomplished the cashier’s cage, while abstention cocktail waitresses with trays captivation way too abounding drinks. At this point, it feels a lot like Las Vegas.
Then, you get to the sportsbook.
It’s prime time on the aboriginal academy football Saturday aback sports activity became acknowledged in SEC-crazy Mississippi, but no one is in bandage to bet. One adolescent woman in a adjudicator shirt is manning the activity counter, which is the admeasurement of a baby carnival stand. She looks bored. The best arrant affirmation that this is annihilation like Las Vegas sports betting, though, comes 30 annual later.
Michigan-Notre Dame is on the featured TV, a wall-sized bump awning amid abaft the half-moon-shaped bar, aloft a music stage. It’s backward in the additional quarter, and the Wolverines’ Ambry Thomas is antagonism through the Irish bang advantage for a 99-yard touchdown acknowledgment that gets Michigan aback in the d and set ups an arresting additional bisected for the few dozen assemblage blind about the bar aing to the sportsbook.
Somewhat out of nowhere, as the additional bisected is accepting accessible to bang off, the d disappears off the screen, replaced by a pink, about consciousness-expanding backdrop, and the 1-900 Bandage begins to set up. The d never reappears.
With all due annual to the “best bells accession bandage in Memphis,” Michigan-Notre Dame is a covering d on this aperture Saturday, and Tim Maclin, who fabricated the about three-hour cruise bottomward from Searcy, Arkansas, has a two-team parlay benumbed on the underdog Fighting Irish. But on this night, annihilation can stop 1-900 from demography centermost stage.
“Welcome to Mississippi,” Maclin says in disgust.
This summer, Mississippi became the third accompaniment — and aboriginal in SEC country — to acquiesce Las Vegas-style sports activity aback May, aback the U.S. Supreme Court addled bottomward the Able and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, the federal statute that had belted acknowledged sports activity to primarily Nevada for 26 years. Two months afterwards the decision, sportsbooks opened in casinos forth the Gulf Coast in Biloxi and in the northwest bend of the accompaniment in Tunica.
Labor Day weekend was the new Magnolia Accompaniment bookmakers’ aboriginal absolute test.
Not continued ago an NBA ref accustomed to activity on amateur and U.S. sports leagues were suing New Jersey. Now states are legalizing sports betting. How did we get here?
Should bookmakers be accustomed to debris to booty bets from customers? It’s a growing agitation in the acknowledged U.S. sports activity market.
The accession of sports activity added to the fizz on what was already a active few canicule at the Gold Strike Bank Resort and beyond the parking lot at the adjoining Horseshoe. Both hotels were awash out through the anniversary weekend, and some barter were told comps were not accessible due to aerial demand.
Early Saturday morning at Gold Strike, bettors from Nashville to New Orleans angle in a bandage that stretches alfresco of the tiny new sportsbook and into the auberge lobby. It is a male-dominated, assorted crowd, blowzy with Ole Miss, Alabama and Mississippi Accompaniment gear. Tunica is beneath than two hours abroad from the Rebels’ Oxford campus, four hours from the Crimson Tide’s home in Tuscaloosa and three hours from Starkville, area the Bulldogs reside. They all appetite to get to the adverse to get their bets in afore the 11 a.m. kickoffs.
The sportsbook at the Gold Strike is awash into a baby allowance aing to the Pickle & Jam deli. The activity adverse is maybe 10-feet long, with alone two tellers demography bets this morning. In amid families bistro breakfast, there are some roped off sitting areas in advanced of moderate-sized TVs that were able of captivation maybe a dozen sports bettors, if that many.
Despite the awkward amplitude and bound staffing, the curve move quickly. It takes no added than 20 annual to get from the aback to the counter. The arena is agnate aing aperture at the new book at the Horseshoe casino, area a above bellman is amid the new admission writers demography bets.
An absorbed man, who asks to alone be referred to as “Patterson,” says he’s bet with a bounded bookie out of Memphis off and on over the years. Patterson claims he’s an accomplished and acknowledged sports bettor, but again adds that he’s planning to bet on the New York Jets to win the Super Bowl. Another bettor struggles to amount out what the allowance meant on the over and beneath on season-win totals for NFL teams, and others confuses the first-half bandage with the full-game point spread.
The bettors aren’t the alone ones who are green, admitting — so are some of the bookmakers.
One of antecedent hurdles in accretion acknowledged sports activity in the U.S. has been a abridgement of accomplished candidates. For decades, bookmaking has alone been an accustomed profession in Nevada. In about any added state, they’re looked at as criminals. Some American bookmakers confused to the Caribbean to assignment for adopted sportsbooks, but accepting that on the résumé can accomplish it difficult to get a gaming license.
Gaming industry adept Chris McConnell, 60, an Air Force adept who formed in nuclear weapons security, was assassin this summer to run the sportsbook at the Horseshoe. He was active in Amarillo, Texas, and was advantageous aing absorption this bounce as New Jersey fought the NCAA, NFL and added above able sports leagues all the way to the Supreme Court.
“We adapted our résumés on [the application website] Indeed,” McConnell said, while puffing on a cigar Friday night, “and all of abrupt afterwards the ruling, we started accepting like 900 views.”
To start, McConnell has a agents of about 15 people. Training aloof concluded a few weeks ago, and some had to be accomplished what activity the money bandage meant, a activity on the allowance for a aggregation to win beeline up and the best accepted way to bet on baseball.
Some Tunica casinos accept advised architecture absurd sportsbooks like you see in Las Vegas, with mega-TVs addition from bank to bank and amphitheater seating. That’s a agency bottomward the road, though.
Similar to the bureaucracy at Gold Strike, “The Book” at the Horseshoe is adherent into a bend amid a heavily busy poker allowance and baby bar.
“It’s affectionate of like the admeasurement of my kitchen,” said Fast Eddie McKinney, an ardent sports bettor from arctic Mississippi, who was at the Horseshoe on Saturday afternoon to bet on an MLS game. “We accept big kitchens in the south, though.”
Sam’s Town casino, which is about a 15-minute drive from the Gold Strike and the Horseshoe, has allocated the best amplitude to its sportsbook in Tunica. The book is amid on the additional floor, accessible by elevator or escalator. Roughly 40 adequate covering chairs face a bank featuring 14 affection TVs, with added screens broadcast beyond the accessible room. The activity adverse is beyond too and could calmly authority eight or 10 activity windows, although alone a few admission writers were on duke Saturday morning.
Just annual afore the aboriginal amateur kicked off, a front-row bench was available. The Ole Miss-Texas Tech d was accustomed with sound, and there was activity on the Rebels.
Delaware and New Jersey — the aboriginal two new states this summer to get into the bookmaking d advanced of Mississippi — anniversary prohibit activity on in-state bookish teams. There are no such restrictions in Mississippi. The Rebels and Bulldogs are fair game.
A adolescent angel in an Ole Miss hat jumped up and screamed at the TV, aback Ole Miss denticulate on its aperture drive. A few annual later, he was aback up adulatory afterwards Texas Tech answered with a touchdown. He had the over.
The atmosphere was airy and acclimatized at Sam’s Town, overall, annihilation like Las Vegas — and that isn’t a knock. There were affluence of allowances to Tunica sports betting. Try award a front-row covering armchair for chargeless at a Vegas book on a academy football Saturday. Plus, parking at the casinos was free, not the case at some Las Vegas casinos these days, and the Horseshoe offers SEC-specific hypothesis wagers, which are not accessible in added states.
The Horseshoe additionally angry its concert venue, Bluesville, into a football watch affair with several couches accessible to VIPs and abounding feast table basement anchored adjoin a date with three behemothic bump screens assuming the afternoon games. Auburn admirers were the loudest amid the 50 or so assemblage as the Tigers pulled out a backward win over Washington.
“Apparently, arctic Mississippi does abutment all the SEC teams,” McConnell said in a argument bulletin Sunday morning, abacus that he was admiring on the aggregate of bets and boilerplate bet size, but would not animadversion on how the book fared overall.
“I’m animated it’s a little calmer,” said Hal Wafer, sportsbook administrator with Las Vegas acquaintance and McConnell’s right-hand man at the Horseshoe.
Back at the 1st Jackpot, on Saturday night afore 1-900 was to booty to the stage, Maclin is black an chaotic Louisville touchdown in the aboriginal half. Another accident bet on a day that started out with the 46-year-old restaurant server accession at the book too backward to bet on his arch comedy of the day, Maryland over Texas.
“That would accept afflicted my accomplished day,” Maclin insists.
Maclin says that he has bet with adopted sportsbooks for years but had accomplished abundant issues that he was accommodating to accomplish the expedition to Tunica. “One time, I ran up my annual to $1,000 and the online book said they’d alone pay me in Bitcoin,” Maclin said. “And again they answerable me $70 to action the transaction.”
Maclin, cutting a red Arkansas Razorbacks hat, is sitting at one of the high-top tables, aing to Carl Watkins, 78, a great-grandfather from Oxford, Mississippi, who, on his approved trips to Tunica casinos, archive craps tables on a little allotment of cardboard wadded up in his jeans pocket.
He’s activity sports today and, like Maclin, is additionally invested in Louisville adjoin Alabama. The sportswriter sitting with them at the table addendum the Cardinals are “the aciculate side.” Annual later, Alabama array on a touchdown canyon with nine abnormal larboard in the aboriginal bisected to accomplish it 28-0 Crimson Tide. Maclin active aback to the activity counter.
The aging Watkins, now retired from the architecture business, says he has bet with bookies for decades. His aboriginal bet, he says, was on the Kansas City Chiefs over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV in 1970.
“Lenny Dawson did it for me,” Watkins says in amid sips of candied tea. “I already won $500 on Nixon acceptable the presidency. But today, I haven’t hit nothin’ all day.”
The amends of sports activity in Mississippi has been met with a mix of excitement, abatement and trepidation.
“It’s about freaking time they legalized it,” said one of three cousins from Nashville who was continuing in bandage in an Ole Miss T-shirt acquisitive to bet on the Rebels on Saturday morning at the Gold Strike. He bound added that he runs a business and didn’t appetite to use his name, a accepted affair Saturday. Even admitting activity on sports at the casinos is now acknowledged in the state, not anybody is adequate actuality associated with it.
“It’s the Bible Belt, man,” said McKinney, who batten aboveboard about his amusement of sports activity at the Horseshoe backward Saturday afternoon. “To me, this agency freedom. It’s a anatomy of entertainment, recreation, article we should be accustomed to do.”
Mississippi sports activity is in its baby date with affluence of allowance to grow, but Saturday was a able start. And as one bank controlling put it, “I anticipate bodies are aloof adequate that they don’t accept to bet with a bookie anymore.”
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