A strong push to expand Mississippi sports betting to include online wagering is on deck for 2024.
In each legislative session since Mississippi legalized in-person sports betting in 2018, lawmakers have attempted to expand the market to online sportsbooks. Rep. Casey Eure planned to introduce similar online Mississippi sports betting legislation when the legislature began meeting January 2, but has not done so yet.
“Now, I can’t sit here and tell you for sure that it’s gonna pass the House and I’ll be able to send it to the Senate, but I wanted everybody to know where I stood from day one,” Eure said at October’s Mississippi Mobile Online Sports Betting Task Force meeting.
A bill last year created the task force to study online MS sports betting, and it turned in its report in November. While Eure’s effort might be more informed than previous attempts, industry sources are unsure it will be enough in 2024.
Mississippi casinos remain hurdle
During task force meetings this fall, the state’s independent casino owners rallied against online sports betting, claiming it will bleed revenue from their facilities and allow a few operators to secure significant market share. Sixteen companies operate 26 casinos.
Industry sources suggest the independent casinos might be too much opposition again this year. Casinos can offer online sportsbooks on their property.
“I still think the independent casinos do everything in the power to keep actual online sports betting from passing,” one source said. “Even with talk of tethering or partnering, they feel threatened. But they’re also the most powerful group of casinos in Mississippi, more than Boyd, MGM and Caesars combined.”
Legislator support for casinos in Mississippi
Multiple legislators = voiced concern about the expansion of gaming in Mississippi. The worries range from casino revenue cannibalization to problem gambling.
“My primary concern is how to make sure that we don’t do anything that jeopardizes the destination gaming product that Mississippi gaming has been built on,” Sen. Mike Thompson said during a task force meeting this fall.
Mississippi sports betting champion
While casinos might ultimately stymie online expansion again, at least one industry source is bullish on Mississippi. They believe the Magnolia State is the second-most likely market to legalize online sports betting in 2024, behind Minnesota.
“The chair of the [task force] is committed to putting out a bill, and [House Speaker Philip Gunn] seems supportive,” the source said. “I think it’s in a good spot.”
Previous online sports betting bills failed to advance out of the House. With Gunn’s support, that potentially could change, the source said.
Election year politics an issue for MS sports betting?
While House leadership might be on board, how well they can rally support is unknown. With sports betting often dividing lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, legislators in Mississippi could opt to wait for a non-election year to push the issue.
One industry source said they had heard similar sentiments to those gathered from Georgia legislators.
“We’re seeing headwinds in states like Georgia and Mississippi, where people felt like they might be closer,” the source said. “In an election year with vocal opposition, it makes it harder for lawmakers to feel comfortable moving forward.”
Mississippi bettors trying online
Since Mississippi legalized sports betting shortly after the fall of PASPA, its neighboring states have increasingly gone online, notably Louisiana and Tennessee.
In the month following the 2023 NFL kickoff, there was a 37% year-over-year increase in online accounts created in Mississippi, according to GeoComply. From August 27 to October 22, there were more than 1.7 million geolocation checks from 64,000 accounts.
Of those accounts, 67.9% were tied to Tennessee sportsbooks, while 27.7% were associated with Louisiana sportsbooks.