Jay McDaniel, who took over this month as the Mississippi Gaming Commission’s executive director, steps into the top job just as casinos on the Gulf Coast are coming off their best August ever.
On a recent radio show, McDaniel noted that casino revenue statewide exceeded $200 million in August, with the bulk coming from casinos along the Gulf Coast. McDaniel said these were “really positive” revenue figures, especially since many resorts were closed during Hurricane Ida.
“As of end of August, and even with the casinos closed for two days for the hurricane, they did over $200 million statewide, which is a good monthly number,” McDaniel said on SuperTalk Mississippi. “The coast did $124 million in August, which is their best August in history.”
On Aug. 29, the Category 4 hurricane, packing 150 mph winds, barreled ashore in Louisiana south of New Orleans. The hurricane’s strong winds and torrential rainfall forced casinos in Louisiana and Mississippi to close temporarily.
Of Mississippi’s 26 commercial casinos, 12 are along the Gulf Coast, including eight in the Biloxi area.
Before being named executive director, McDaniel served for 10 years as the Gaming Commission’s deputy director. He replaces Allen Godfrey, who retired at the end of August. McDaniel also has worked as an attorney in private practice.
McDaniel said the state’s casinos are on pace for a “blockbuster” revenue year, possibly exceeding the “great year” they experienced in 2008. Statewide casino revenue in 2008 topped $2.7 billion.
The state’s casinos now usually take in about $2.1 billion a year, McDaniel said.
If we do what we did in 2019, which was a good year, we’re on pace to hit the 2.4 to 2.5 billion mark, which we haven’t done in a long time,” he said.
Mississippi casinos grossed $2.2 billion in 2019. One year later, with casinos closed for two months because of COVID-19 concerns, the casinos earned $1.8 billion in gross revenue.
Sports Betting Takes Off
In Mississippi, sports betting is legal inside casinos at sportsbook, but not off-site on mobile devices such as smartphones.
McDaniel said any decision to legalize mobile sports betting “is going to be in the hands of the Legislature,” which meets again next year.
“If the Legislature chooses to do that, we would quickly be ready to regulate it,” he said.
McDaniel noted that sports betting is “kind of popping up all around us.” It already is underway in two states that border Mississippi — Arkansas and Tennessee.
In Arkansas, bets only can be placed inside casino sportsbooks. Wagering is not allowed on mobile devices off casino grounds.
Mobile sports betting has been legal in Tennessee since November 2020. Even with no commercial casinos in the state, Tennessee in July 2021 ranked 10th nationwide in the amount of money bet on live sporting events, at $144.5 million.
Another of Mississippi’s neighbors, Louisiana, legalized sports betting this summer in most parishes, though it is not yet operational. The Gaming Control Board still must set the rules to regulate and tax the industry.
Once sports betting is up and running in Louisiana, bettors will be able to put money down inside casinos at sportsbooks and on kiosks in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. Mobile sports betting also will be allowed.