Mississippi Sports Betting Could Go Live At Tribal Casinos Quickly

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Tribes Might Win Sports Betting Race

The Mississippi sports betting market will include tribal casinos in addition to the bigger corporate players.

The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians recently approved changes to its gaming commission regulations that will allow sports betting, according to a report from WTOK. Passed unanimously at a special tribal council meeting, the amendments also make room for horse racing.

Pearl River Resort and Bok Homa Casino will offer sports betting, and they might even start sooner than the state’s other operators. Proposed regulations to govern Mississippi sports betting remain in a 25-day public comment period.

Once that period ends later in June, the Mississippi Gaming Commission can consider approving the rules. Mississippi sports betting will be entirely land- and water-based, with mobile wagering allowed only within licensed casinos. It appears the regulations will be adopted at a meeting on June 21, per sources.

Compacts and sports betting

Like most tribes, the Choctaw operate casinos under a compact with the state of Mississippi. These compacts generally govern what types of gaming tribes can offer and what revenues the state receives from tribes. Other states including Florida and California face complicated challenges in amending those compacts to include sports betting.

“As more and more states begin to legalize sports betting, the vast majority of tribes in those states are going to need amendments to their existing compacts in order to operate a sports pool or sports book,” said Daniel Wallach, an authority on gaming and sports law. “Such amendments are time-consuming, do not always succeed, and even when successful, impose a higher revenue-sharing obligation on the tribes.”

So how did MS tribes get involved?

Here’s more from Wallach on why the Choctaw can move forward with sports gambling so quickly:

The reason why the Choctaw Tribe can legally offer sports betting is due to the interplay of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) and the Mississippi Gaming Control Act. Under IGRA, federally-recognized Indian Tribes (such as the Choctaw) can engage in “Class III” gaming (such as sports betting) so long as the state in which the tribe is located “permits” such gaming and there is a state-tribal “compact” (or agreement) between the tribe and the state which expressly allows the tribe to engage in that form of gambling.
Here, both conditions have been met. In 2017, the Mississippi Legislature amended its Gaming Control Act to broaden the definition of “sports pool” to include “wagers on collegiate or professional sporting events or athletic events,” and also eliminated the prior prohibition on casino licensees accepting wagers on athletic events that take place off the licensed premises. As a result of these two amendments, Mississippi became the third state (after Nevada and New Jersey) to legalize single-game sports betting.
Further, the 1994 Compact between the Choctaw Tribe and the State of Mississippi (as approved by the US Department of the Interior) recognizes that “sports pools” (defined as the business of accepting wagers on sporting events) “is allowable gaming under this Compact only if such wagers are allowed on non-Tribal lands under the law of the State.” Thus, when sports wagering became legal in Mississippi by virtue of the 2017 amendments to the Gaming Control Act, it also became an ‘authorized’ form of gaming for the Choctaw Tribe under its long-ago negotiated compact with the state.

Choctaw Indians in ‘a great position’

In Mississippi, the compact forged in 1994 needs no changes. Language in the regulations reads that sports betting can be conducted in tribal casinos “if such wagers are allowed on non-tribal lands under the laws of the state.”

“Some tribes are in a great position to immediately enter the land-based sports betting market as soon as their state-licensed land-based casino competitors do so, even if authorizing legislation does not explicitly mention them,” said gaming attorney Jeff Ifrah of Ifrah Law.

Thanks to a 2017 change to Mississippi law, that is the case in the Magnolia State. Lawmakers used a bill approving daily fantasy sports in the state to repeal Mississippi’s prohibition on sports betting. While some legislators claim ignorance of the language in the bill, none are making serious efforts to stop sports betting.

Other changes address more gaming options

The council also approved changes that address a wide range of gambling options. This includes skill-based games, DFS, esports and slot products that award community-based bonuses to groups of machines.

Pearl River Resort looks to be the first of the tribe’s casinos that will offer sports betting.

“The resort is very excited about the opportunity to offer these new products for our guests in a vibrant and advanced gambling environment,” Phyliss Anderson, Choctaw Resorts Development Enterprise board chairman and tribal chief, told WTOK.