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First Year of Legal Sports Betting in Mississippi Adds New Element to March Madness

Story contributed by Briana Florez and Skye Spiehler
Broadcast journalism students
bfflorez@go.olemiss.edu, sespiehl@go.olemiss.edu

Ole Miss Intramural Sports employee Jackson Fox says Campus Recreation’s NCAA bracket challenge lets everyone have a stake in the tournament. This is the second year Campus Rec has put on a bracket challenge.

The first year of legal sports betting in Mississippi has extended the madness from the court to the casinos.

Since the tip-off of the first official game in the NCAA tournament today, college basketball fans near and far have been glued to a TV, hoping their picks will make them winners.

Experts predict the tournament will bring in millions of dollars to casinos. According to The American Gaming Association, 47 million people will bet an estimated $8.5 billion during March Madness. This is the first year betting for the NCAA tournament is legal in the United States, outside of Nevada.

Mississippi is one of eight states where sports betting is now legal. Casinos like Island View Casino in Gulfport will host watch parties throughout the three weeks of the tournament to bring people in.

Zuhail Rivera, lead marketer for Island View Casino, said March Madness has steadily increased business.

“It attracts people, and it brings new customers in,” Rivera said. “You know, it’s always good to branch and open to new horizons.”

Students who are unable to travel to the casinos can still participate in the excitement. Ole Miss Campus Recreation hosts its own annual bracket challenge for the men’s and women’s tournaments.

Intramural sports employee Jackson Fox said making picks adds another element to the madness.

“You just have a little bit of skin in the game,” Fox said. “You kind of make these picks and you’re like, ‘Oh maybe so and so, like the 13th seed will get through to the Elite 8 or something. I think it just adds more excitement and fun to the game.”

Fox said he is proud he was able to attract increased interest with this year’s men’s bracket challenge, nearly doubling the number of last year’s participants from 40 to 73. The winner will take home a championship T-shirt and a free Domino’s pizza card.

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