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  • Sports betting handle and revenue each decreased by 69% from February to March 2020.
  • The betting month was shortened, as COVID-19 essentially shut down sports by March 12 and all Mississippi casinos were forced to close on March 16.
  • Without online betting to fall back on, Mississippi won’t see another dime of sports betting revenue until it is safe for large public spaces to reopen.
  • Even if sports return in the fall, Mississippi casinos could remain closed.

BILOXI, Miss. – Mississippi recorded its second-worst financial performance in March, with betting handle and revenue decreasing by almost 70% from February. Both figures were the lowest they’ve been since sports betting launched in Mississippi in August 2018.

The final totals were $10.7 million in betting handle and just under $650,000 in sports betting revenue. Both figures represented a 69% decrease from February.

The hold rate of 6.03% was also the lowest since November 2018.

March is typically one of the most lucrative sports betting months of the year, owing to March Madness. That is especially true in Mississippi which acts as a hub for Southeastern Conference fans throughout the south.

In 2019, Mississippi sports betting operators increased their revenue by 78% from February to March, and their total betting handle by 29%.

The state of Mississippi forced all its casinos to close by midnight of March 16, but sports betting was essentially halted on March 12, when the NBA, NCAA, MLB, and MLS all suspended play due to the Coronavirus threat.

In other words, March only saw 11 days of full betting action. Extrapolating these handle and revenue totals out over a full 31-day month paints a more encouraging picture: Mississippi sportsbooks were on pace for $30.3 million in handle and $1.8 million in revenue.

COVID-19 Financial Impact On Mississippi Sports Betting

Mississippi is going to be especially hard hit financially by the COVID-19 pandemic because it does not offer online sports betting to its residents.

In states with legal online sports betting, sportsbooks can at least maintain a few small, low-cost revenue streams by offering wagering on the few sporting events that remain unaffected by the shutdown—Belarusian and Nigerian soccer, Taiwanese baseball, etc.

Mississippi’s sports betting revenues will remain nonexistent until it is safe for casinos to reopen. This could be especially bad if sports are able to resume in the fall without fans, but large venues remain closed to the public, as some have speculated.

Every state is going to have to find ways to stretch their February and March revenues for the next several months, but the margin for error in Mississippi is slimmer than that of many other states.

The economic cost of COVID-19 extends far beyond casinos. The state of Mississippi is going to lose out on millions of dollars in tax revenue from the sports betting shutdown—money that would go toward education, infrastructure, and public wellbeing.

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