Mississippi, the Casino Capital of the South East, might be the next to offer sports betting, as experts take a closer look at the Fantasy Sports bill that was passed earlier this year. In an extremely quiet move, Mississippi passed what could only be interpreted as sports betting legislation when they passed their Fantasy Sports Bill earlier this year.
“We did make modifications to Gaming Control Act that would allow for the Gaming Commission to regulate sports betting if it were ever to be overturned at the federal level,” per state Representative Scott DeLano. “I think that opens up an opportunity to offer it as a legal game,” chimed in Mississippi Gaming Commission Executive Director Allen Godfrey
The act in question can be found in HB 967, which is an updated version of Mississippi’s 2016 Fantasy law. As a refresher bill, it was not closely looked at, which is probably how Mississippi was able to escape notice. But even if it had been closely examined, it would be easy to miss what Mississippi did. You see, they never used the phrase “sports gambling”. In fact, they didn’t even add anything to the law. Rather, they simply took some things away.
HB 967 repeals a subsection of the Mississippi Gaming Control Act that states “no wagering shall be allowed on the outcome of any athletic event, nor on any matter to be determined during an athletic event, nor on the outcome of any event which does not take place on the premises.”
With that section of the law taken out, Mississippi’s Gaming Control Board would feasibly be able to implement regulated sports betting as soon as it was allowed under federal law, making them one of the first states able to do so. Only Connecticut has been successful in passing conditional sports betting legislation, although a total of nine states introduced similar legislation.
While the news of this change to their law took a while to be noticed, Mississippi has never shied away from the topic of legalized sports betting. In fact, they have been one of the most outspoken in favor of the topic. State Revenue Commissioner Herb Frierson advocated for legalizing sports betting because of its potential for tax revenue.
Frierson believes that legal sports betting would be able to bring in at least $88-100 million to the state if taxed properly. He’s not the only one to speak up on the topic, though. An op-ed piece by the Editorial Board of the Sun Herald made their opinion as clear as day:
“The federal government has correctly left it up to the states to decide whether to allow casino gambling,” reads the piece. “It should do the same for sports betting.” Mississippi’s Attorney General also made his opinion on the matter known, when he became one of five state AGs to sign the Amicus Brief that assisted New Jersey in gaining its cert grant.
Not only is the state willing and prepared to offer Mississippi online sportsbooks, it is also one of the most perfectly poised to do so. Mississippi has dozens of casinos scattered throughout the state. If New Jersey is able to win its Supreme Court case later this year, we could be seeing sports betting as early as 2018 in the Magnolia state.