Will Mississippi have sports wagering in casinos by football season? Don't bet against it – Jackson Clarion Ledger


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Rep. Steve Holland speaks passionately from the floor in favor of creating a state lottery.
Geoff Pender

While state leaders continue their decades-old hemming and hawing over a lottery, folks could be legally betting on sports and horse racing in Mississippi casinos by this coming football season.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule as early as next week on whether states can allow sports betting. 

If it rules they can allow it, Mississippi is, to borrow the words of former state House Gaming Chairman Bobby Moak, “ready to run the ponies.”

In a move that still astounds me, state lawmakers in 2017 sneakily legalized sports betting without most folks realizing it.

And in a move that further astounds me, they didn’t come back this year and undo it.

This undermines any arguments that legalizing it was just an oops or a scrivener’s error. Bills to undo or postpone legalized sports betting died in committee this session without a peep from the leadership.

If you oppose the expansion of legal gambling to include sports, you’ve done been had by the Mississippi Legislature. That horse has left the barn — or gate, as it was. 

More: Did legislative leadership really fall for sports-betting rope-a-dope? Geoff Pender

Lawmakers last year passed a bill to regulate and tax fantasy sports. In doing so, someone also snipped out a bit of state gambling code that said people could legally wager only on games held on the casino floor. 

The federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 bans sports gambling in all states except Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana. New Jersey has battled this in court for years, with other states joining in, arguing it’s unconstitutional under the 10th Amendment’s provisions for states rights. The U.S. Supreme Court last year agreed to hear the case, and a ruling will come by June 25.

Mississippi Gaming Commission Director Allen Godfrey has said the new Mississippi law allows sports betting, subject to regulation by the commission.

“It will be just another type of game offered in a legal casino operation,” Godfrey said.

Godfrey said that even if the ruling were to come as late as the June 25 deadline, and it removes the federal ban, the commission would have regulations and approvals finalized and sports betting could begin in casinos “within 45 to 60 days, before football season.”

New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and West Virginia have also passed state measures allowing legal sports betting, should the federal ban be lifted by the high court.

There could be financial benefit to Mississippi’s gambling industry being early out of the gate, pun intended. It could be a shot in the arm for the state’s casinos, many of which are financially ailing.

“Florida’s not talking about it. Tennessee’s not talking about it. Nor is Arkansas or Georgia,” Godfrey said. “Louisiana has about 35 days left in its legislative session, and that topic is not getting much traction. No one within our drive-in market is having that conversation.”

No one is really sure how large the current (mostly illegal) U.S. sports betting market is, although many cite a $150 billion a year figure. In Nevada, legal sports gambling accounts for 2 to 4 percent of annual gross gambling revenue of $10 million to $11 million a year. Mississippi’s gross gambling revenue is about $2 billion.

But Godfrey said sports betting would mean more than just the actual gambling revenue for Mississippi casinos and their towns.

“It’s a very nice amenity for them to have that would generate more foot traffic during times of the week when foot traffic is not very high,” Godfrey said. “It would likely increase revenue at hotels, restaurants, etc.”

And it was passed in Mississippi without debate.

 

 

 

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Francis Okoro saw new side of Purdue basketball on official visit – Journal & Courier


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The 6-9 power forward from Normal, Illinois, finished an official visit to the Boilermakers on Friday.
Nathan Baird/Journal & Courier

The big man from Normal, Illinois, has not decided whether he’ll remain in the 2019 class or reclassify and enroll somewhere in the fall.

WESTFIELD — Francis Okoro had already been on Purdue’s campus, twice, for unofficial visits.

Recently, Boilermakers coach Matt Painter made an in-home visit to the big man from Normal, Illinois.

So familiarity was not an issue when Okoro took an official visit to Purdue from Wednesday to Friday. When it ended, he headed to Westfield to play for Bradley Beal Elite in a Nike EYBL event loaded with Boilermaker recruiting targets.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the official visit didn’t give the 6-9 Okoro a new perspective with which to potentially make a decision. He had a chance to play with the returning Boilermakers and said he left impressed with their IQ and ability to share the ball.

“The official visit is really important because it showed me how important the school is to me,” Okoro said after Bradley Beal Elite’s opening game Friday night. “They show me the athletic director, show me the inner people inside the schools.

“They talk to you about what they see about you in terms of not just basketball. They kind of talk to you about what they see in you as a person.”

Okoro, for now, is No. 40 in the 24/7 Sports national composite for the 2019 class. He remained non-committal on the possibility he could reclassify to the 2018 class. The Illinois High School Association’s age limit may force Okoro to either enroll this fall or spend a year at prep school.

Okoro said he recently scored a 32 on the ACT, which would help address any immediate college-qualifying issues. But it also may give him the flexibility to choose his destination and worry about classification later.

“I was more worried about class, but now I’m picking a school.” Okoro said.

Purdue has scholarships available immediately, and coach Matt Painter and assistant Brandon Brantley both watched Bradley Beal on Friday and Saturday.

The athletic native of Nigeria recently took an official visit to Oregon. Ducks coach Dana Altman was courtside Friday as well. So was Illinois coach Brad Underwood, and Okoro said he had talked to the Illini about setting up a visit for next week.

After that, he said a commitment could be imminent.

Okoro ostensibly plays center, and Purdue has plenty of bodies there in the short term thanks to Matt Haarms (7-3), Emmanuel Dowuona (6-11) and, depending on development, Trevion Williams (6-9).

However, Okoro said the Boilermaker coaches see him playing power forward. One sequence Friday showed why he may have the necessary skills. Okoro pounced on an attempted post entry pass on defense, hesitated a bit while bringing the ball up court as if looking for a ballhandler, then attacked the rim himself before dumping off to E.J. Liddell for an and-one.

“I’m improving,” Okoro said. “I just have to have confidence and show the coaches I can really do that.”

Bradley Beal coach Robert Kennedy said the program is trying to develop Okoro’s all-around game this summer. He does, however, see a role as a stretch 4 or similar usage at the next level.

“He could fit because he’s very versatile,” Kennedy said. “Once he masters how to make shots he’ll be fine. His footwork is great and he has a good IQ for the game. He’s a student of the game, but he’s got to continue to work and work and work to get better as a player.”

Purdue can make a strong case in terms of playing style, pointing to Caleb “Biggie” Swanigan’s recent success as an undersized center (per conventional wisdom) who excelled in the system.

However, Oregon is making its own style-based pitch, trying to sell Okoro on running the floor and throwing down lobs. Okoro also took note of Nike’s support for the program on his visit to Eugene.

Adding Okoro for 2018 would add additional versatility to an increasingly kaleidoscopic roster. With redshirt freshman Aaron Wheeler, incoming graduate transfer Evan Boudreaux and the aforementioned post depth, Purdue is assembling an interesting mix of interchangeable length.

“They made a point in terms of how they need me and showed me a lot of love,” Okoro said. “It was a really good visit.”

EYBL notes

Isaiah Thompson, Purdue’s first commit in the 2019 class, attended the event to support his Spiece Indy Heat teammates. The Zionsville rising senior will be out until at least the end of May with an avulsion fracture in his left foot. He had only been off crutches for two days as of Friday and wore a walking boot. … Two of Thompson’s teammates, Center Grove’s Trayce Jackson-Davis and Fort Wayne North’s Keion Brooks, spoke of their continued connection with Purdue.

Valparaiso’s Brandon Newman, playing with Meanstreets, said DePaul, Xavier, Loyola and Milwaukee have recently offered. He doesn’t have a Purdue offer yet but they remain in contact. For the summer he’s a teammate of Cathedrals’s Armaan Franklin, who already holds a Boilermaker offer. … Mokan forward Malik Hall hit a 3-pointer with a hand in his face to help his team to an eventual overtime victory Friday night. The product of the same Sunrise Christian Academy program as Haarms is blossoming into a major prospect. Defending national champion Villanova and others offered in the past week. … Drive Nation center Drew Timme is among the players intrigued by Purdue’s history of developing big men.



Hong Kong arm-wrestling chief is going from strength to strength after starting with nothing – South China Morning Post


Every Tuesday and Saturday Hong Kong student Tommy Kwong Tze-man goes to the gym and pulls weights, lifts dumbbells and does leg presses – and gets a little closer to his dream.

The visits to Optimum Performance Studio in Tsim Sha Tsui are part of his weekly training routines for arm-wrestling – something the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology maths student is still trying to master after more than a decade of fine-tuning his skills.

“Most people think that arm-wrestling is all about pure strength so that if you have bigger biceps then you’ll win but it’s actually a misconception.”

The 23-year-old founder of the Hong Kong Armwrestling Association says you don’t need arms like cartoon character Popeye the Sailor to be at the top of the game.

“Even with bulging arms, if you don’t know how to use the right muscles and apply the right techniques at the correct time, you will still lose to an opponent smaller than you.”

While anyone can arm-wrestle, not everyone can be good at it, Kwong says.

“It may look simple but it’s easier said than done. It’s more than just having a strong guy beating the weaker one at the game.”

Hong Kong children learn life lessons with the world as their classroom

Since establishing the association two years ago, Kwong has been coaching and training with its members.

“Nearly all of the muscles in the upper body can be used, coupled with some lower body muscles to give strength during a professional game of arm-wrestling,” he says.

Even with bulging arms, if you don’t use the right muscles and techniques, you will lose to a smaller opponent

Tommy Kwong, founder of the Hong Kong Armwrestling Association

His secret to winning is technique and speed.

“Arm-wrestling is more a competition of how well you can transmit power from your biceps to the forearm, then seamlessly to the palm and finger tips locking a grip to cause the opponent to lose their leverage,” he explains.

“Once you feel them slipping that is when you should tighten the ‘hook’ of your fingers to seal the deal.”

What used to be a playground pastime has now become an inspiration in Kwong’s life.

“Before arm-wrestling, I just thought I was an ordinary student who wasn’t really passionate about school. While I wasn’t sure about what kind of a life I wanted, one thing I knew was that I must do well academically because that’s what society, my family and friends expect of me.”

With the pressure to follow social norms, Kwong began to suppress his thoughts of wanting to walk his own path at his own pace until he found arm-wrestling.

“Stepping out of my comfort zone to start the association was the first step to realising my own dream.”

He started with a Facebook page, with just one follower – himself.

While that was discouraging, it was his love for the sport that kept him going.

“I was actually mentally prepared for that because I realised it’s relatively new for most in Hong Kong. I knew people knew what it was but they would doubt it could be played professionally,” he says, adding that it was already considered a professional sport in mainland China and Malaysia at the time.

With just him in the group, a lack of experience and no resources, he took a chance anyway.

Eventually, Kwong met a couple of others who also share the same passion so they joined hands.

“If you back down, you’ll never achieve anything. Together, we went from practising with just a regular table in the park to now, owning more than four professional arm-wrestling tables and a sponsored venue for training.”

If you back down, you’ll never achieve anything

Tommy Kwong

Expanding from one member to more than 40 within two years, the association is thriving.

“This is a sport for all, unfortunately, all our members are men. This is definitely not a male-only sport, we want to see more women joining us.”

The last thing he wants is for woman to avoid the sport because they think it is not suited to them.

“I feel that a lot of women in Hong Kong are afraid of getting too big or that training for arm-wrestling will turn them into muscular hunks when, in fact, that is a misconception that needs to be lifted,” he says, trying to ease concerns that resistance training means becoming muscle-bound.

How did this high-school dropout succeed in fashion in Hong Kong?

“The biological structure of women and men is different. The level of testosterone, which is a male hormone that helps with muscle building, is a lot lower in women than in men. In a way, that means no matter how much exercise you do, it will be very difficult to get arms as big as a man’s.”

Kwong explains that by doing arm workouts, it will not only help lose body fat but also gain a small amount of muscle which will tone one’s body.

Even having to juggle between university work and managing the association, Kwong is determined to continue to promote the sport with the big dream of gathering all like-minded enthusiasts in the city and go international one day.

“I know it’s not very popular right now but I have faith. And my hope is that we can compete as a group from Hong Kong and take on other international teams in the near future.”



Predators encouraged by their 'best game' of playoffs despite loss to Jets in opener – The Tennessean


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Nashville Predators defense man, Ryan Ellis suffered a cut to the face during the third period of the loss to the Winnipeg Jets.
Autumn Allison, USA TODAY NETWORK- Tennessee

The Predators’ dressing room was more upbeat Friday than you might have expected after a playoff loss. 

Sure, they trail their second-round series with the Winnipeg Jets, the result of a 4-1 defeat that wrested home-ice advantage from them. But they also felt encouraged by how they performed despite the result. 

“If I’m being honest, that’s the best game we’ve probably played in the playoffs,” Predators defenseman P.K. Subban said. “Maybe one of our best of the year.”

Rexrode: Jets land first shot on Predators with opportunism, better goaltending

In an ideal world, the Predators and Jets wouldn’t be meeting in the second round. This isn’t the proper setting for such a compelling matchup between the NHL’s two best teams. 

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We shouldn’t let the league’s odd playoff format ruin our good time. But if you’re partial to the Predators, that’s exactly what the Jets did Friday. 

“It sucks to lose that first one,” Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis said. “But I think we can take the fact that we played a really good game.”

More: Predators national anthem singer: Dierks Bentley, Del McCoury sing ahead of Game 1

Unless you have an aversion to heart-stopping, high-event hockey, Predators-Jets games this season have been appointment viewing. Game 1 on Friday didn’t disappoint. 

The Predators pelted Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck with 20 first-period shots, a playoff franchise record, and 48 total, the most in a regulation playoff game in team history. But they relied too heavily on long-range attempts and struggled to impede Hellebuyck’s vision. 

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Nashville Predators’ Ryan Johansen agreed that this was the team’s best game of the playoffs, but it’s too bad it ended in a loss to Winnipeg.
Autumn Allison, USA TODAY NETWORK- Tennessee

Predators forward Kevin Fiala’s tap-in during the third period snapped Hellebuyck’s shutout streak, which dated to the first round, at 163 minutes. 

“You always hope for more chances, but I thought we did a pretty good job of just shooting the puck,” Predators captain Roman Josi said. “We had a lot of zone time trying to create chances. They played well. They have some big (defense) and big players. They protect the net pretty good.”

When the Jets possessed the puck, they were opportunistic on offense. Forwards Brandon Tanev and Paul Stastny each were the beneficiaries of rebounds in the first and second periods, respectively.

More: Waffle House shooting first responders honored before Game 1 of Predators-Jets series

Center Mark Scheifele whipped a wrist shot late in the second period past Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne, whom coach Peter Laviolette replaced with Juuse Saros to start the third period. Rinne wasn’t at fault for Winnipeg’s first two goals, but needed to stop Scheifele’s at a critical moment of the game. 

“We’ve got to win hockey games,” Laviolette said. “I think you can hang your hat on (effort) sometimes in the regular season when you’re talking about a process and a long haul and a big picture.

“But right now, if you give me two choices on where to be, our game or their win, I’d take the win. It’s about winning hockey games right now.”

Reach Adam Vingan at avingan@tennessean.com and on Twitter @AdamVingan.

 

 



Megan Keller, US hockey team honored at White House by Donald Trump – Detroit Free Press




Rugby: Blues slump to another loss in Jaguares stunner – New Zealand Herald


Rugby was not the winner at Eden Park. And nor were the Blues, turning a bad season into a horror season and making everyone wonder how on earth things could get any worse.

Maybe they can, but goodness only knows how. Losing to the Jaguares at home is surely as bad as it gets?

The Jaguares…no one loses to them, and this really must have to rank as one of the most miserable nights in what is now a quite miserable recent history for the Blues.

A virtually empty stadium watching a broken team in appalling conditions crushed in almost every aspect by the relative newcomers from Argentina. What a sad, sad night for a club that once ruled Super Rugby with a pomp and swagger. What a sad, sad night for a club that was once feared and revered in equal measure.

And it wasn’t just the fact they lost either, it was the way they lost. They so meekly drifted out of the contest in the second 40 minutes. They were in charge at the break and then nothing. They came back out so limp and insipid; so lifeless and one dimensional.

Jordan Hyland of the Blues looks on after the defeat. Photo / Photosport
Jordan Hyland of the Blues looks on after the defeat. Photo / Photosport

It would be unfair to say the players don’t care, but they do seem to have an inability to overtly display their passion.

They were never eager to get their hands on the ball. They had so little urgency or dynamism as if they were just killing time, waiting for the Jaguares to do what just about every other side has done to them this year and cruise past them in the final quarter.

Their scrum was a lost cause entirely. The Jaguares clearly didn’t respect it or rate it and they went about destroying it with a touch of disdain.

They would have been happy scrummaging all night and pretty much chose to do so, having several periods when they opted for repeat penalty scrums such was the pressure they had the Blues under.

That was hard to watch – a New Zealand side being so dominated like that. The Jaguares also got their rolling maul working and again, this was another area where it was man versus boys.

Joaquin Tuculet of the Jaguares makes a break. Photo / Photosport
Joaquin Tuculet of the Jaguares makes a break. Photo / Photosport

The Blues can only be thankful that while the Jaguares were good at building the momentum and steering their driving maul close to the tryline, they weren’t so good at closing out and actually scoring from it.

If they had been, the score would have been even uglier. The sense of disaster and hopelessness even greater. Which is unbelievable as the doom and gloom hanging over the club is considerable.

How they find a way out of the mess they are in is becoming an increasingly impossible question to answer.

There are so many problems to fix it feels like no one has a clue where to start. Losing to the Jaguares has intensified all the concerns and worries about the club, the city and the role of rugby within it.

No one will be able to stomach too many more nights like this and be willing to keep turning up at Eden Park.

Worse, so few kids in Auckland will be willing to pick up a rugby ball and give it a go if they see to many more performances like this.

Jaguares 20 (A. Creevy, E. Boffelli, T. Lezana tries; N. Sanchez con, pen)
Blues 13 (T. Manu, M. Duffie tries; S. Perofeta pen)