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Looking to revise sports wagering legislative interest in Mississippi, two state senators have introduced new bills that would permit mobile wagering only.
This new measure echoes a similar strategy that nearby state Tennessee put into successful effect last year. Taking a mobile/online approach whereas Mississippi has no physical casinos within the state that offer sports wagering with mobile access.
Tennessee’s sportsbooks have initially exceeded all forecasts within the first two months of operation, accumulating $312.3 million in wagering handle and providing $5.4 million in welcome tax funding for the Volunteer State. Legislators and lawmakers in bordering Mississippi caught notice and have introduced these new bills with a pressing agenda.
Sens. Philip Moran (R) and Scott Delano (R) have introduced measures to allow people within the Mississippi geolocation border to use mobile devices to wager upon sporting events. Moran took special attention in mentioning that Tennessee has legalized mobile sports betting in November and subsequently has raised millions in tax revenue.
Sports wagering is currently available in Mississippi inside casinos, but not on mobile devices such as a smartphone or personal computer. Mississippi is home to 26 commercial casinos. Of these, 12 exist along the Gulf Coast. Eight are in the coastal town of Biloxi. Moran lives in Kiln, near the Gulf Coast. Delano is from Biloxi.
As a comparison between the two states, Mississippi’s retail (land-based) sportsbook handle totaled $55.3 million in December, substantially lower than sports wagering totals in new “online-only” operations in newly legislated Tennessee. However, as tax percentages differ among every US state, Mississippi generated an extremely healthy $7.8 million share.
Senate Bills 2732 and 2396 clearly outline the rules. Among them, casinos with sportsbook licenses would have the option to partner with companies that offer mobile sportsbook services. The bills would then need to pass through Mississippi’s legislative checklist and be approved by Governor Tate Reeves.
Moran, the sponsor of Senate Bill 2732, mentioned that casinos can coordinate with companies that provide the apps to roll out the program. He said:
The public can then enjoy the ability to bet five dollars on your favorite team if you so choose.
Additional tax revenue is targeted for several state causes but with priority to help Mississippi schools and roadways. Ben Koff, Vice President of the Scarlett Pearl Casino near Biloxi is supportive of the new measure, understanding what it could mean to help the state recover from severe damage caused by COVID-19. Koff also realizes that with 14 US states and Washington DC now legally offering sports betting plus a growing list, Mississippi is playing a losing hand with only retail location wagering. Koff said:
Pretty soon we’re going to be left in the dark, and we can’t be the one left in the dark and lose our customers and our guests choosing to go elsewhere with their casino entertainment dollars.
Some debate is anticipated as gambling opponents often express concern that out-of-control online wagering can shatter families, sending them into a downward economic spiral. Proponents will point to the crucial benefits of tax revenue that otherwise would go out of state to places where gambling is legal.
The catalyst toward progress may come from eyeing results from other Southern states who are deciding similar sports wagering legislative issues. They include Texas, Alabama, Georgia, and a big longshot in Florida. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey’s Group on Gambling Policy found that online sports wagering could provide an incremental $10 million in tax revenue in the first year of operation.
Senator Moran and Delano’s plans are in the first stage and will need further political support to gain traction. With progress on mobile wagering bills anticipated by several surrounding Southern states, it can be expected that Mississippi could see its online wagering develop into operation late in 2021.
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Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.
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