Taking Bookies Battle bridge to Ol' Miss
September 05, 2018 3:01 AM
by Dave Dye
Follow the bettors.
That’s what GamingToday and the popular Bookies Battle, in its 39th year, is doing with sports wagering now allowed legally outside of Nevada in states such as Mississippi and New Jersey.
George Cole, the new director of Mississippi race and sports for Boyd Gaming, might be a familiar face for some players in Las Vegas. Cole was running the book at Aliante Casino when the news broke in mid-May that a Supreme Court ruling had opened the door for other states to legalize sports betting.
“I found out July 10th that I was going to be going,” Cole said. “I flew down here July 23rd. We opened August 3rd.”
Cole, who is in charge of the books at both Imperial Palace Biloxi and Sam’s Town Tunica, will be making his weekly NFL selections against the spread, along with many other bookies, in a contest that pays $1,000 to the winner.
Forgive him if he hasn’t had time to do as much handicapping as normal. He’s been a little busy lately.
“It was challenging to say the least,” Cole said of the launch. “We had some people from both properties fly to Las Vegas (in July) to get some training. That helped speed things up a little bit.
“But the system (to take bets) we were using in Las Vegas wasn’t licensed to operate in Mississippi. All of us together had to learn a new system.”
Cole, 46, has been living out of a hotel room at the Imperial Palace for about a month and a half. His wife, Maggie, and 15-year-old son, George IV, are back in Las Vegas. Cole said they probably won’t move to Mississippi until June, after the school year.
It’s a sacrifice for what he considers a long-term reward.
Before moving to Las Vegas to start out as a ticket writer, Cole worked as a fisherman in Costa Rica, where he met his wife. He was drawn to the Gulf Coast area.
“I’ve always loved the water,” he said. “When I saw Mississippi was one of the states that would go first (to add sports betting), I put my name in the hat. It looks like I’m going to be staying. I like it down here. Real nice people. Legal (sports) gambling may not have been around before but a lot of these people have been gambling quite a while.”
While Sunday promises to be an exciting time in both of Cole’s sportsbooks with the NFL kicking off, Mississippi is a little different than Vegas. Down South, college football is the king.
“This is SEC country,” Cole said. “They came out pretty strong for the first week of college.”
Those bettors weren’t just from Mississippi, but from nearby states such as Alabama and Louisiana. They packed into the Imperial Palace, but unlike Cole, they got to go home after the weekend. That hotel room is starting to close in on him.
“I’m ready to move out,” he said. “Everybody here is real nice, but it’s tough being where you work 24 hours a day.”