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Is Mississippi almost ready to go on legal sports betting in the state?
That’s been a topic of some debate over the past year. A fantasy sports law enacted in 2017 altered the state’s gaming control act, taking out a prohibition on wagering on sporting events.
But some lawmakers appeared to be unaware that they even voted to open up sports wagering in that law, and there was even an effort to reinstate the ban that failed this year.
Now, the US Supreme Court possibly poised to strike down the federal ban on wagering outside of Nevada — PASPA — within the next few months. That means Mississippi could be poised to join a growing list of states that could offer sports betting.
But there’s been little public about Mississippi’s sports gambling plans. Legal Sports Report talked with Mississippi Gaming Commission Deputy Director Jay McDaniel this week about what’s next for Mississippi sports betting.
The top-level takeaway — it’s perhaps closer than you think.
Here’s a transcript of the conversation with McDaniel:
LSR: Can you tell me where sports betting stands in Mississippi? I know the fantasy law from last year repealed the prohibition on sports betting.
JM: When you said you mentioned you knew about the fantasy contests act, when that was passed last year, the act actually removed a provision in the gaming control act that contests had to take place on the premises in order to be wagered on, that being the premises of the casino. That language was actually removed. So our gaming control act covers casino gaming in the state, and that gaming control act allows for any type of wagering as long as it’s done on the casino (floor), and that’s also for sports pool or racebook.
It’s not mentioned a lot in the act, there’s a provision where an operator has to request permission from our executive director in order to do that. That’s in Mississippi code 75-76-89.
We’ve obviously never had sports pool here because of the federal prohibition. Why you’re hearing a lot of chatter about it now, if that federal ban were repealed then you could perhaps have it here. From our standpoint, as far as our licensed operators are concerned, it would be another offering they could offer. But that would be the only place you could do it.
LSR: Just at the casinos?
JM: That’s correct because the gaming control act is the only thing that legalizes it in our state, so you wouldn’t see internet sports betting or anything like that.
LSR: So that would be my next question, in order to authorize online or mobile wagering, the legislature would have to enact a new law?
JM: Yes, that’s right, that would require further action. But the way we understand it, and that’s just me speaking from our gaming control act, if it’s done on a casino floor — and that could possibly include mobile or electronic wagering on the floor but you wouldn’t be able to do it outside the casino — it’s okay. Anything beyond that yes, you would need further statutory action to do that.
LSR: Is it then fair to say that the gaming commission has been doing some work if a US Supreme Court decision allows Mississippi to have sports wagering?
JM: I will tell you what we’ve been doing is in the chance that it’s repealed, I feel pretty firmly we’d have an operator, maybe multiple, asking that permission. Our standpoint is be prepared in case that happens. We don’t have any regulations right now that address it, if the Supreme Court repeals the federal ban, we would likely need to do that, because we would likely have operators asking to conduct sports betting. And we’d need to have regulations to have guidelines for that.
LSR: From the sounds of things you would wait for a decision to write those regulations? What kind of timeline are we talking about, and what will operators need to do to have sports betting?
JM: It’s kind of a mixed bag, if you have an operator that is already licensed and just wants to offer it, if they want to make the odds and take the wagers, they’re already licensed to conduct gaming, so that would just be an extra offering. I think that could be done pretty quickly.
We have 28 different casinos in the state, and some are larger than others, so I think where you may run into some timing problems, would be where if they need the expertise of an unlicensed vendor who would need to come in and get a license, that may take a little time. So you would have the entities that would just do it themselves, and perhaps others that want to partner with someone else. Those entities would need to be licensed in order to provide odds and take bets.
LSR: In theory, a company like MGM would probably ask to offer sports wagering and might be up and running kind of quickly.
JM: That’s fair to say, that’s kind of a theory, you have some large operators that are multinational, and then some are small or local that may have never done it before. So you’re right, MGM, Caesars they would be a little more equipped to do it coming out of the gate.
You mentioned timeline, it’s kind of hard to tell, our commissioners decide when new regulations are put on the agenda. We meet every month so nothing is on this month’s agenda, so the earliest you could see something would be April, just depending on when it looks likely the Supreme Court may do something. And once the regulations would be proposed there would be a little time to actually put those up for public comment, certify them, get them officially put in the regulations.
Here’s some more on the timeline for Mississippi:
Could Mississippi have legal wagering sometime this year? Definitely.