Mississippi’s Pearl River Resort – nation’s first tribal casino sports book – exceeds expectations Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports · November 7, 2018 at 1:00 pm The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians knew they needed to move quickly to stay competitive as commercial casinos in the state began opening sports books before the start of football season. The tribe became the first in the nation to offer wagering on sports after reaching a deal with International Game Technology in early August to provide its sports betting technology. Three weeks later, the tribe opened a sports book at the Pearl River Resorts’ Golden Moon Hotel & Casino in Choctaw, Mississippi. The tribe’s Silver Star Hotel & Casino in Choctaw and Bok Homa Casino in Sandersville, Mississippi also have sports betting. That quick undertaking and success was recognized Tuesday at the 19th annual TribalNet conference at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. In an award presented by Adobe, Pearl River Resort’s information technology department won the award for the Gaming and Enterprise category. The staff ordered and installed software and hardware in 30 days, according to Cheryl Smith, executive director of IT when she accepted the award on stage with her staff. She said 60 percent of the IT department personnel is tribal. Tribal Chief Phyliss Anderson said what the staff accomplished “was amazing,” and did a tremendous job of opening the facility. It was all about competing with commercial casinos that were opening at the end of August ahead of the college football and NFL seasons, and it’s paying dividends with higher revenues and attracting more guests. Anderson wouldn’t talk about wagering or revenue figures, except to say the hold is greater than 8 percent. Commercial casinos have reported holds in the vicinity of 10 percent. “We’re doing a lot better than we originally anticipated,” Anderson said. “It’s gone beyond what we thought, and we’re very excited about it. It’s a football state, and everybody comes to bet on their teams. There are only two seasons in Mississippi; football season and waiting for football season. We’re seeing it full right now because it’s football season.” The casinos are in the center of the Southeast Conference and cater not only to two Mississippi SEC schools but neighboring fans in Alabama. Edward Rangel, director of IT operations who appeared at a sports panel discussion on setting up sports book operations, said there was such a time crunch to make it work and proud of all the back-end work to get it open from choosing a vendor, building a new gaming system and training people. It’s made an impact. “We are seeing people who have visited our casino who we have never seen before, and it’s because of our sports book,” Rangel said. “We’ve had people that have not played with us for many years that are now returning. At the sportsbook alone, the food and beverage sales have been higher than they ever been. People are eating and drinking while the games are going on.” Anderson said she doesn’t know what will happen once football is over but excited about how the customers coming for sports and who also play slots and table games and spend money on food, beverage and retail. “Generating revenue is what it’s all about,” Anderson said. The tribal sports books will be more successful when they soon begin offering mobile wagering on reservation grounds – 35,000 acres scattered in 10 counties in central Mississippi, Anderson said. “The younger generation are tied to their phones, and we need to do something with mobile,” Anderson said. “If they won’t come to us, we will go to them.” The second tribal sports betting operation started in October in New Mexico at the Santa Ana Star Casino Hotel. It’s operated by USBookmaking on behalf of the Pueblo Santa Ana. The Squaxin Island Tribe was also honored Tuesday with an award for its Information Services Department for governmental affairs.