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MGM Resorts International has already had “preliminary discussions” about legal sports betting in several of the jurisdictions in which it has casinos, according to one of its vice presidents.
Beyond the near immediate possibility of New Jersey sports betting — where MGM owns the Borgata — the company is already preparing for the possibility in Mississippi, Michigan and Maryland. That’s according to VP of race and sports Jay Rood in a recent interview with Legal Sports Report.
“It’s an exciting time. We’d be doing a disservice to our shareholders if we weren’t looking into it,” Rood said. “We’re evaluating jurisdictions where we have gaming licenses, and some are obviously higher up the list.
“We’re examining the logistics of what a sportsbook would look like, things like staff training; there are lots of moving parts.”
Two of those states are ones where there has been recent chatter about legalization.
MGM Resorts International is poised to be at the center of a potential sports betting revolution in the US. With locations in many of the states that may be first movers in the sports betting space, MGM could benefit greatly if New Jersey wins its sports betting case in the US Supreme Court.
It already has a racebook at Borgata, and MGM is working on a $7 million upgrade that would turn it into a full-fledged sportsbook.
“The team in New Jersey is trying to figure out an appropriate design, we’re still engaged with an architect,” Rood said.
A decision in Christie vs. NCAA is not expected until March at the earliest and June at the latest, so it might be unlikely the full book would be up and running in the event of a New Jersey victory.
Mississippi is the state that appears to be furthest along on sports betting, already lifting a prohibition on wagering via a fantasy sports bill this year.
If it moves forward, MGM has a pair of casinos in the state: Beau Rivage in Biloxi and Gold Strike in Tunica. Both will be natural fits to install sportsbooks. (MGM also owns a minor-league baseball stadium in Biloxi.)
Meanwhile, Las Vegas will continue to be the focus of MGM’s sports betting offering. What happens there could be the blueprint of the future for sportsbooks elsewhere.
In particular, Rood said that MGM is looking at possible changes to its Mandalay Bay property sportsbook, which is already a pretty large one. With the Oakland Raiders coming to Las Vegas in the near future, Mandalay will be one of the closest casinos to the planned stadium.
“We’re brainstorming what changes we might make, what services we can have there, what we can offer besides the sportsbook,” Rood said. “We’re in the process of coming up with right design and the right strategy that we can act on before the Raiders get here.”
Rood pointed to a renovation of the sportsbook at the Mirage in 2013 as where the sportsbook business might be headed in Vegas and beyond. There is tiered, theater-style seating and couches available for small groups that want a more intimate setting.
It seems like a more engaging way to bet on sports and watch them.
“I think you want to provide [bettors] with what they’re used to, but try to create a really cool viewing experience,” Rood says. “And then bring wagering into it somehow in a way that’s unobtrusive.”