New Mississippi Sports Betting Bill Would Ban — Yes Ban — Wagering

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While a number of states in the US are looking at how they can legalize sports betting quickly, at least a few lawmakers are trying to make sure the genie stays in the bottle.

A new bill in Mississippi seeks to prohibit wagering, a year after the state repealed such language from a state statute.

Another new bill in the state seeks to study tax rates for sports wagering, should it move forward with legalizing and regulating the industry.

The bill to ban Mississippi sports betting

H 1113 popped up this week in Mississippi, seeking to ban single-game sports wagering. It amends current state law with this passage:

No wagering shall be allowed on the outcome of any athletic event, nor any matter to be determined during an athletic event, nor on the outcome of any event, which does not take place on the premises.

The bill would exempt fantasy contests covered by a 2017 law.

Of course, sports betting is not currently legal within Mississippi. So why the bill?

That same fantasy sports law enacted last year took the sports betting prohibition out of current gaming statutes. That presumably would have allowed the state — via the legislature or the gaming commission — to move forward with regulation.

But at least some of the lawmakers who voted for the fantasy bill appeared to be unaware of what that legislation did on the sports betting front. How widespread the desire to roll the sports betting language back is unknown. There are two authors on the bill.

The New Jersey sports betting case awaiting a verdict from the US Supreme CourtChristie vs. NCAA — could open up sports betting to any state that wants to legalize it.

Studying a Mississippi sports betting tax?

Another bill — H 1154 — is another short piece of legislation that merely sets up a panel to look at sports betting:

There is created a study committee to recommend best practice taxation policies for the State of Mississippi regarding casino sports gambling. … The committee shall report its findings and recommendations to the House Committee on Gaming and Senate Committee on Finance prior to the 2019 Legislative Regular Session.

Under that legislation, sports betting would take a back seat until next year. Given some of the high tax rates on sports wagering we’ve seen crop up in Pennsylvania and Indiana, seeing some lawmakers want to dig deeper into the issue isn’t the worst idea in the world.

Is a bill to legalize sports wagering coming?

Seeing as lawmakers wrote the fantasy law with the idea of regulating sports betting down the road, it’s difficult to imagine a bill enabling wagering won’t also appear in the state.

The state, after all, is home to a commercial casino industry that would likely welcome sports betting to their facilities. MGM Resorts International is one of the companies with a stake in the state’s casinos, and has already started to look at the prospect of sports wagering.

So while a bill seeking to ban sports betting is less than an ideal development for proponents in Mississippi, it’s not anywhere near the end of the road for 2018.