While the New Jersey sports betting case continues with an appeal to the US Supreme Court, efforts to change the sports betting prohibition in the US moves forward both federally and on the state level. Nowhere has that effort been more apparent outside of the Garden State than in Mississippi.
November has quietly been a busy month for Mississippi and sports betting.
First, state Revenue Commissioner Herb Frierson presented a case for legalizing sports betting as a source of tax revenue.
More from the Biloxi Sun Herald:
Frierson also discussed sports betting, an industry that rakes in $95 billion annually in the U.S. Sports betting is illegal in Mississippi, although Frierson said that “many” Mississippians play the odds. He said the industry could bring in an additional $88 million to $100 million if legalized and taxed on the state level.
“I know these things are very politically controversial with our conservative Christian friends, and I respect their positions, but I’m putting it all into consideration,” Frierson said.
Of course, it’s not quite as simple as Mississippi legalizing sports betting. A federal law — the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act — prevents most states from authorizing sports betting.
Either PASPA would have to be struck down in court or changed by Congress in order for Mississippi to legalize it. Short of that, Mississippi could pass a law legalizing sports betting that would almost certainly be challenged by the professional sports leagues under the power granted to them in PASPA.
In the wake of Frierson’s comments, there has been more examination of the topic. An op-ed in the Sun Herald called for legalization:
The federal government has correctly left it up to the states to decide whether to allow casino gambling.
It should do the same for sports betting.
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood was one of five state AGs to lend support to New Jersey in its ongoing case to legalize sports betting. More on that amicus brief here.
The states’ case in that brief is less about the ability of states to offer sports betting, and more about upholding states’ rights to prohibit and allow what they want in more general terms.
But it would seem clear that part of Mississippi’s interest here is because it would like offer sports betting within its borders. The other states in the brief — West Virginia, Arizona, Louisiana and Wisconsin — have not been on the forefront of the sports betting issue.
Mississippi is one of a variety of states that has widespread casino gambling. Like in most states, the casinos there would obviously love to offer sports betting in addition to slot machines and table games.
The state did not join a similar amicus brief the last time NJ appealed its case to SCOTUS (unsuccessfully.)
That came after a negative legal opinion from Hood earlier in the year.
While that law is not a revenue generator for the state, it does show that Mississippi is willing to push forward when it comes to new forms of gaming in the state. It has not been as aggressive as states like New Jersey regarding online gambling, in general however; NJ authorized Atlantic City online casinos three years ago.
Beyond the other states that joined the amicus brief, there have been a few states where sports betting has been on the radar.
Chief among those are two of New Jersey’s neighbors: New York and Pennsylvania.
At least one lawmaker in NY has said he would like to create a New Jersey-style PASPA challenge (paywall). How much traction such an effort will gain is unknown. New York is one of the states that has also enacted a DFS law.
PA’s statehouse, meanwhile, has also expressed interest in offering sports betting. But that effort hasn’t gotten beyond a resolution on the matter. A law like New Jersey passed would be redundant, as PA is in the same federal court circuit as NJ.
It’s clear a lot of states would like to legalize sports betting, given the opportunity. But Mississippi appears to be one of the states willing to push forward to make it happen.