State Eyes New Revenue From Legalization Of Sports Betting
Legal Sports Report

Mississippi Is Most Aggressive State On Sports Betting After New Jersey

Mississippi sports betting
As the fight to expand legal sports betting in the US eyes new fronts, Mississippi has clearly become one of that effort’s biggest proponents.

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.

The latest in Mississippi on sports betting

November has quietly been a busy month for Mississippi and sports betting.

Revenue from 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.

Op-ed in favor

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.

An op-ed from the Oxford Eagle was a little less bullish on the idea.

Mississippi joins New Jersey

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 VirginiaArizona, 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.)

Mississippi and daily fantasy sports

Mississippi is also one of eight states that moved to legalize daily fantasy sports under state law in 2016.

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.

Other states and sports betting

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.

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Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.