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Mississippi is among the small group of states that has legalized sports betting.
In 2017, the Magnolia State repealed the portion of its law prohibiting the activity, and gaming officials said they were ready to move forward with regulations.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 became the case on August 1, 2018, making the state one of the first outside of Nevada to offer single-game wagering.
Here are the basics about Mississippi sports betting.
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Yes. Legal sports betting in Mississippi launched August 1, 2018.
The Mississippi Gaming Commission (MGC) is charged with regulation and oversight of the industry.
Gambling is limited to water- and land-based casinos in Mississippi, and that restriction extends to sports betting, too.
Beau Rivage (Biloxi) and Gold Strike (Tunica) became the first two Mississippi casinos to accept sports wagers on August 1. A total of 23 Mississippi properties now offer legal sports betting.
Any current gaming license holder can apply to offer sports betting. There are around 30 of them in the state.
The legal gambling age in Mississippi is 21.
As written, current laws limit gambling to those physically present in a licensed casino. Electronic sports betting is permitted, but only if conducted on-site. No mobile or online wagering can take place off the grounds of a casino.
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.
Within hours of the Supreme Court voting to repeal PASPA in May, the Mississippi Gaming Commission released draft regulations to govern sports betting. After a 30-day review period, those regulations went into effect and licensed gaming operators began applying to offer sports betting.
Regulators spent the next few weeks preparing for the launch of sports betting and MGM won the race to come to market. Beau Rivage and Gold Strike accepted the first sports wagers in Mississippi history on August 1, 2018. Sam’s Town, Horseshoe and IP Casino quickly joined.
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.”
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.