On Thursday, a crowd gathered at the Magnolia Bluffs Casino in Natchez, Miss., as casino management and city leaders showed off the property’s updated sportsbook, called Playmakers.
Sports betting had been in place at the casino located on the Mississippi River in the southwestern Mississippi town, for the past three years – not long after the state became one of the first to allow sports betting after the US Supreme Court overturned PASPA in May 2018.
Kevin Preston, founder and president of casino owner Premier Gaming Group, said the initial approach to sports betting was to offer something small and see where it went. As demand grew – not just for sports betting, but for a sports bar in town – Preston told Casino.org that he knew that there was an opportunity.
I just wanted to do something that really created a wow factor,” said Preston, noting that neighboring Louisiana is on the verge of launching sports betting. “…we really went in with both feet and did something that created something that’s special in that whole area.”
The new sportsbook features 40 televisions, including a screen larger than 18 feet diagonally, and studio space for the ESPN radio station out of Baton Rouge, La., to broadcast shows. There are also separate dining areas as well as a private room that’s available too.
Staying Independent Helps Small Operators
A small, independent casino, Magnolia Bluffs runs its own sportsbook rather than partner with a national operator. Preston said that allows the casino to manage Playmakers operations more effectively.
That way we’re managing our risk and making sure that we’re maximizing the dollars coming into the book,” he told Casino.org. “It just makes more sense for us. If we were bigger and in bigger metropolitan areas and had six, seven, eight properties, maybe it would be worth it. But for these smaller, niche markets, to me, (staying independent) makes much more sense.”
IGT works with the casino, providing its PlaySports platform for the Playmakers brick-and-mortar sportsbook.
Preston said the kiosks IGT provides allow for customers to make their bets quickly and easily, while the technology allows casino management to operate the sportsbook on their own.
“We’re able to drive a lot more revenue to the bottom line, which is great,” he said.
Asher Takes Over at IGT
Earlier this month, IGT announced that Joe Asher came on board to serve as the gaming company’s president of sports betting. Asher founded Brandywine Bookmaking in 2008, and then joined William Hill as the CEO of its US division after the British-based sports betting operator bought Brandywine in 2012.
Asher left William Hill after it was officially acquired by Caesars Entertainment earlier this year.
In a statement to Casino.org, Asher said that IGT’s platform is used by both small independent operators and larger ones to grow their sportsbook business.
“Leading brands such as FanDuel and PointsBet partner with IGT for their retail sportsbooks, while operators such as Resorts World Las Vegas and Boyd Gaming use our mobile app,” he said. “And customers like Sky Dancer Casino, Pearl River Resort, and the Oneida Tribe use our turnkey offering, which includes trading services. No matter the size of a casino operator’s business, IGT has a product that can be utilized to offer a first-class sports betting product to their customers.”
Expansion Likely on the Horizon
Currently, Preston’s company operates just Magnolia Bluffs. However, it may soon add another. As the Mississippi casino opened its upgraded sportsbook, the Louisiana Gaming Control Board approved Caesars Entertainment’s sale of Louisiana Downs to Rubico Acquisition Corp.
Preston also serves as the president of the acquisition corporation.
The sale must also be approved by the Louisiana Racing Commission, which is slated to meet Tuesday to consider the transaction. According to a Louisiana Downs release, the sale could close within days if racing commission officials approve the $22 million sale.
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