Legal Sports Report

Mississippi Sports Betting

Mississippi is among the small group of states that have legalized sports betting.

Last year, the Magnolia State repealed the portion of its law prohibiting the activity, and gaming officials said they were ready to move forward with regulations. Federal law stood in the way until recently, but the US Supreme Court removed that hurdle in May.

In the lead-up to the repeal of PASPA, we had a hunch Mississippi was almost ready. That’s definitely the case, as regulators have indicated an appetite to launch the industry before the end of the summer. That would make the state one of the very first outside of Nevada to offer single-game wagering.

Here are the basics about Mississippi sports betting.

Recent Mississippi sports betting news

Legal sports betting basics in Mississippi

Sports betting is one of many legal forms of gambling legalized by Mississippi. The state has a long-standing reputation for gambling, dating back to the founding of the country. Before Mississippi was even created, settlers and Native Americans were engaging in card games and betting on horse races and other sports.

Geographically, the state’s position at the mouth of the Mississippi River made it an economic hub for several decades during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The Gulf Coast eventually emerged as a destination for music, food, sports and gambling. Its casino clubs were frequented by the likes of Jimmy Buffett, Jayne Mansfield, Hank Williams and Elvis.

The state formalized its gambling industry in 1990 with the passage of the Mississippi Gaming Control Act, which allowed riverboat casinos in coastal counties. The first casino opened two years later, floating down the river from Iowa to its permanent home in Mississippi.

Gambling breathed new life into the region before Hurricane Katrina came to town in 2005. The superstorm brought ruin to Biloxi and Gulfport, damaging or destroying nearly every casino along the shore. With owners vowing to rebuild their properties, the law was changed to allow them to move onshore (within 800 feet of the water) in the hopes of avoiding a repeat disaster.

Today, the rebuilt Mississippi gulf region is the nation’s third-largest casino market, with about 30 casinos open for business. None of them currently offer sports betting, but that may change in the near future.

Mississippi sports betting FAQ

Is sports betting legal in Mississippi?

Yes. Mississippi state law contains no prohibitions against sports betting, but regulators still need to finalize the framework of the industry before sportsbooks can take action.

Who would oversee Mississippi sports betting?

The Mississippi Gaming Commission (MGC) will be charged with regulation and oversight of the industry.

Where can I bet on sports in Mississippi?

Gambling is limited to water- and land-based casinos in Mississippi, and that restriction extends to sports betting, too. The first sportsbooks will open once regulations are finalized, potentially this summer.

Who can apply for a Mississippi sports betting license?

The absence of regulations means that any licensed casino can ask to offer sports betting. There are around 30 of them in the state. There are currently no regulations about sports betting; the MGC would have to write those before wagering could take place.

Who will be able to bet on sports in Mississippi?

The legal gambling age in Mississippi is 21.

Will mobile sports betting be available in Mississippi?

As written, current laws limit gambling to those physically present in a licensed casino. That does seem to indicate that electronic sports betting would be permitted, but only if conducted on-site.

There is, of course, a reasonable chance that lawmakers will revisit that restriction. Even the sports leagues are pitching the benefits of mobile and internet betting platforms, but it would require a separate law for authorization in Mississippi.

Mississippi sports betting timeline

2018: Mississippi ready to go

Early in 2018, Legal Sports Report spoke with the deputy director of the MGC, Jay McDaniel.

According to McDaniel, Mississippi is poised to regulate sports betting as soon as federal law allows. “…Our commissioners decide when new regulations are put on the agenda,” he said of the timeline. “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.”

Those comments seem to indicate that regulators could begin to act even before a decision is announced, likely before summer. “Our standpoint is be prepared in case that happens,” McDaniel added.

Even if the first Mississippi sports bets weren’t accepted until late in 2018, that would still be a pretty brisk pace. Licensed casino operators who have experience with sports betting (MGM, Caesars) appear to have a quick path to a potential market in the state.

On the other hand, some lawmakers have pushed back against the plans, claiming they weren’t clear what they voted on the year prior. There’s at least one bill on file that would expressly prohibit Mississippi sports betting.

2017: Fantasy sports bill opens the door for sports betting

In 2017, Mississippi legalized daily fantasy sports. The Fantasy Contest Act (H 967) laid out the regulatory framework for the industry, following a similar roadmap to other states.

But Mississippi’s DFS law included (or rather, excluded) another statute with broad ramifications. It modified several definitions and provisions in the Gaming Control Act of 1972, including the one that prohibited sports betting. Here was the original language that was stricken:

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

Despite never using the words “sports betting,” the new DFS law removed the prohibition against it.

Reading between the lines, this allows the MGC to regulate sports betting. Regulators say they already do, in fact. “We already regulate sports gambling,” executive director Allen Godfrey said. “We arrest people who do it illegally.”

2014: Internet Gaming Taskforce created

In 2014, the House Gaming Committee created the Internet Gaming Taskforce to study its namesake topic. Sports betting was subsequently added to the to-do list, and the taskforce submitted a report on both by the end of the same year.

The comprehensive “fact-finding study” touched on the regulated industries in other states and hurdles specific to Mississippi. Here was the conclusion:

To date, it appears that the actual revenue generated is far behind the revenue projected by the introduction of Internet gaming. In addition, it would seem the most likely way for Internet gaming to be productive is for states to form compacts with each other, in order to make the payoffs attractive. There are technology issues that Mississippi would have that other less rural states may not encounter, while not preventing Internet gaming from occurring, it may be more frustrating for the patron trying to logon and determining if they are located in the state or outside of the state. As for sports betting, it is still uncertain as to whether a state can overcome the federal ban.