Illegal sports betting has been a major issue in Mississippi and the US as a whole. Bookies running illegal operations must now adapt to the new landscape since sports betting was legalized in the state.
For many years Mississippi has had sports betting; it just hasn’t been legal. Many generations have placed sports bets through illegal bookies, usually in person or over a phone line. It wasn’t until August that it was finally legal.
Now, many people are wondering what has happened to those bookies since legalization. A number of casinos in the state now offer sportsbooks. At any given time, there are hundreds of illegal bookies dotted around the state.
One of them spoke with the Sun Herald recently, detailing how their business has been affected since legalization.
Busier than ever
Despite what people may think, Mississippi’s illegal bookies have not been losing money since legalization. If anything, they are making more money now than ever.
The bookie in question has more than 100 clients located around south Mississippi and Biloxi. Most of these people have been his clients for many years. He sees an uptick of about 25% in new clients every year, mainly through word of mouth.
He says that he makes 90% of his money through football betting. When the football season starts, he will receive anywhere from 200 to 300 bets each week. During the off-season, this will fall to around 50 bets per week.
The majority of these bets will be placed on the New Orleans Saints. There are also plenty of bets placed on the Mississippi college teams, as well as other notable colleges such as Florida State, Florida, Auburn, Alabama and LSU.
The bookie has a minimum bet requirement of $25 and there are a number of markets available to bet on. You can place bets on the game outcomes and on a variety of prop bets, such as who will score the first touchdown.
He also sees some money coming in for horse races and sometimes he also offers betting on political races.
How it works
At the casino sportsbooks, you will need to pay money up front to place your sports bet, but this is not the case with illegal bookies. They work through a credit line, with money usually rolling over each week. Eventually, they will settle up with a client at a location on the following Tuesday after the weekend’s bets have been settled.
Bookies no longer really take bets over the phone and they do not usually create the odds. Bets are now placed through online apps that have their operations based offshore.
There is a lot of trust involved in the entire process for all parties concerned. He says while most of his clients are causal bettors, there are a handful of major ones.
One of the main reasons these big bettors use illegal bookies is due to taxes. There is a 25% federal tax on an individual’s winnings and a casino needs to report any winnings of $10,000 or more to the authorities. This, of course, is not the case with the illegal bookies.
Recent sports betting performance
Legal sportsbooks opened during August and they received almost $10m in sports bets that month. This rose to $31m in September, largely thanks to the starting of the college and professional football seasons.
Every legal bet is placed at a casino property; no online betting is currently allowed. This suits the illegal bookies and they will continue to have an edge as long as this continues. Physically going to a casino is still a hindrance that a lot of people don’t want.
Instead, punters can place their sports bets from anywhere using their illegal bookie. Some of the illegal bookie’s clients sample what the casinos have to offer with their sportsbooks, but often they continue betting with him for the convenience.
New Jersey is another state that has legalized sports betting since the federal ban was overturned in May. It has embraced mobile sports betting; the most recent figures show that more money came through these mobile offerings than at the land-based casinos in September.
This illustrates the demand for convenient sports betting options is there. A former director of the American Gaming Association warned legislators in Mississippi, saying: “Having mobile gaming only here inside the brick and mortar casinos will ensure the future success of the illegal market.”
That said, the illegal bookies don’t make as much money as some people may think. They take only a small slice from each bet as there is a lot of competition in the space. The bookie interviewed by the Sun Herald even pays taxes and has never been arrested.