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Mississippi considering mobile sports betting legislation

Mississippi lawmakers may legalise mobile betting

A bill to legalize mobile sportsbooks in the Magnolia State is under consideration by the Mississippi legislature.

The proposed legislation, House Bill 184, was introduced by Rep. Cedric Burnett when the state’s lawmakers convened at the Mississippi State Capitol in Jackson on Tuesday.

Burnett’s bill seeks to amend the state’s current gaming laws to allow statewide mobile betting. Should the measure become law, the 26 establishments currently licensed to operate retail sportsbooks will be allowed to team up with online-only operators to offer mobile sports wagering.

Each of the approved gaming facilities will be allowed to run one online sportsbook.

The bill is currently in the House Gaming Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Casey Eure. If the measure passes the committee with a favourable vote, it will advance to the Ways and Means Committee before going to the floor of the House for a full vote. The state Senate is also required to sign off on the proposed legislation.

The legislation will come into effect on July 1 if it is passed by lawmakers.

Will it be a case of third time lucky for Rep. Burnett?

HB 184 is not Rep. Burnett’s first attempt to push for the expansion of mobile betting outside of Mississippi casinos.

The lawmaker, who is a staunch supporter of legal betting sites, introduced similar bills in 2019 and 2020, but in both cases the measures died without making any significant progress.

This time, however, there is a likelihood that the legislature will approve changes to current gaming law seeing that there is increasing support from casino operators. MGM Resorts, for example, is already offering on-premise mobile betting at Gold Strike Casino in Tunica and Beau Rivage in Biloxi in partnership with BetMGM.

The impact of the covid-19 pandemic on the land-based industry as well as the passage of similar bills in neighboring states like Louisiana (Louisiana sports betting) and Arkansas (Arkansas sports betting) might also spur the state’s lawmakers into action.

MSG Says It’s Ready to Implement New Law

As Mississippi lawmakers get down to work at the New Capitol, the state Gaming Commission has said that it is ready to regulate the market should the legislature pass the proposed legislation.

“As far as the commission’s position, it’s always been if they pass it, we’ll regulate it,” said Jay McDaniel, the Executive Director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission.

According to the commissioner, coming up with rules to regulate the market and getting the industry off the ground wouldn’t take long once the legislature passes a bill.

McDaniel has been among the proponents of legalising statewide mobile betting in the Magnolia State since 2019 despite resistance from a section of casino operators. The majority of those opposed to authorising the activity mostly cite concerns over loss of business, but the commissioner argues that having mobile betting apps would generate additional revenue for both state and casinos.

Moreover, he says, residents of the state are already using offshore bookmakers to place online sports bets illegally.

“It would certainly help at least to take away that illegal market. If you give someone a legal product I think they’re going to choose that over an illegal one,” said McDaniel.

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