A deal with the Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort in D’Iberville, Mississippi gives DraftKings its first sportsbook operation outside New Jersey. Additionally, it will be DraftKings’ first-ever brick and mortar sportsbook.
The new sportsbook opens on Friday, Nov. 16 in Scarlet Pearl’s existing PRL Bar. The location is being re-purposed into a “multi-screen betting and social destination for sports lovers.”
Customers will be able to bet on “dozens of sports.” Soon this will include live in-game betting with three dedicated windows.
On-site sports betting kiosks will be brought in as soon as regulatory approval is received. There will also be an in-casino mobile app for sports betting on mobile devices.
Mississippi’s new laws only allow online sports betting inside the casino grounds, so DraftKings won’t be able to offer a general app for state residents.
Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort CEO LuAnn Pappas said:
“We are excited to introduce DraftKings, a ‘New Way’ to game for our current and future guests. Our collaboration with DraftKings is an opportunity for us to continue to set high standards on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and give our players a new home for sports betting.”
Scarlet Pearl has recruited Nicholas “Nico” Sfanos to run their sports betting operation. Sfanos comes from Station Casinos where he ran sportsbooks throughout Nevada.
Scarlet Pearl joins 11 other sports betting casinos in Mississippi
There are 12 coastal casinos authorized by the Mississippi Gaming Commission (MGC). The other 11 already offer sports betting, so Scarlet Pearl is last to the party in its market.
The MGC actually licenses 28 land-based and riverboat casinos and expects all 28 to ultimately offer sports betting.
Chief Revenue Officer and Co-founder of DraftKings Matt Kalish commented:
“We’re thrilled to be working with Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort, whose leadership has a high bar for quality and a forward-thinking approach to sports betting; a perfect fit for DraftKings. We’re excited to bring and offer an innovative sports betting experience to sports fans in one of the largest and most competitive gaming markets in the U.S.”
He should be thrilled, because for a moment there it looked like DraftKings might have missed the Mississippi boat. That would not have been a smart move.
DraftKings is pursuing a US expansion strategy
DraftKings blew everyone away with its rapid entry into the New Jersey market.
It launched in New Jersey on August 6 and had the online market to itself for a few weeks until the other online casinos got their own apps ready for launch.
That early success, which saw the NJ app take a million bets by September 7, provided the brand with momentum.
The US sports betting market is in its infancy—outside of Nevada—and there is a battle royale going on between the casinos for market share.
DraftKings has The Big Mo, but from its sports betting beachhead in New Jersey, it needs to expand rapidly if it is to compete.
DraftKings needs a big partner to compete
Like FanDuel, DraftKings has the advantage of brand awareness from its DFS operations. But FanDuel has a huge international gaming business behind it.
Paddy Power Betfair bought FanDuel earlier this year and are using the brand for their push into the US.
There are rumors of possible buyers for DraftKings, but nothing concrete has yet surfaced. This foothold in the Mississippi market gives DraftKings credibility as a multi-state operator and enhances its value to any potential buyer.
The Kindred Group looked like it might have an interest back in June. That seems to have come to nothing.
Since then Kindred has partnered with the Hard Rock Atlantic City to pursue its US sports betting strategy. The company clearly wants more US partners, and DraftKings looks like it fits the bill.
Maybe the Mississippi expansion could see a renewal of corporate interest in DraftKings.