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MGM CEO Bullish On Sports Betting In Earnings Call, Says Supreme Court ‘Will Likely Legalize’ It This Year

Jim Murren, Chairman, CEO of MGM Resorts International, listens at a press conference, at MGM National Harbor, in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, December 8, 2016 (Photo by Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren is so high on the prospects of sports betting, he told the company’s investors that he believed that the federal ban would be struck down this year.

What MGM’s CEO said on sports gambling

Murren was speaking during MGM’s Q4 earnings call on Tuesday, and the subject of sports betting came up in his prepared statements.

He was talking about the idea that Las Vegas is quickly becoming a sports town with an NHL franchise already there (the Golden Knights) and the move of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders to Vegas in the near future. Then, he turned to sports betting:

“If you add to that the fact that the Supreme Court will likely legalize sports betting this year, MGM is really poised to immediately take advantage of that opportunity. Sports as it relates to our performing events here and as it relates to our industry we believe is a significant avenue of growth for MGM Resorts in the future.”

Murren was talking about the US Supreme Court case about the federal single-game ban on sports betting — PASPA — outside of Nevada. The state of New Jersey has been arguing in the federal court system that law is unconstitutional. The state wants to offer sports wagering.

Should the state prevail in the case, it could mean that sports betting could be legalized by other states, beyond just New Jersey.

Reading between the lines

Murren making such a statement could be dismissed as idle chatter about the future of sports wagering.

But given the venue — a call with investors — it’s more likely that Murren and MGM believe the odds are heavily on the side of New Jersey. That lines up with the thoughts of many Supreme Court experts and legal analysts, who believe New Jersey fared well in oral arguments that took place in December.

The fact that the Supreme Court took the NJ sports betting case at all likely increased the odds that PASPA would be overturned.

The impact of sports betting on MGM

MGM already operates in the Nevada sports betting industry with brick-and-mortar sportsbooks and mobile wagering. It also owns Borgata in Atlantic City, giving it a route to offer sports wagering in NJ. Plans are already underway there.

MGM also owns casinos in a number of states that could move forward on the sports betting front:

  • Mississippi: Beau Rivage in Biloxi and Gold Strike in Tunica
  • Michigan: MGM Grand Detroit
  • Massachusetts: MGM Springfield
  • Maryland: MGM National Harbor
  • Illinois: Grand Victoria

Simply put, MGM will be on the leading edge of any potential rollout of sports betting in the US.

Dustin Gouker :Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.