Another Mississippi Lawmaker Submits Online Sports Betting Bill

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Another Senate bill has come forth seeking to legalize mobile sports betting three years after Mississippi launched retail sports betting. On Monday, state Senator Philip Moran submitted a legislative proposal to allow mobile and online betting in the Magnolia State, believing this the future for the Mississippi sports betting industry.

Since land-based sports betting was legalized in Mississippi in August 2018, several attempts were made to launch its digital counterpart. Before Moron’s SB 2732 this week, the most recent effort came last week from Senator Scott DeLano, who introduced Senate Bill 2396 to amend the existing law by adding online sports betting to the retail-only industry. DeLano’s proposal was referred to the Senate Gaming Committee last Monday.

What is the Existing Situation?

Currently, Mississippians who wish to place a bet on their favorite sport must visit a casino property. SB 2732 wants to change that as the bill authored by the Republican leader would enable residents to place wagers from their phone or computer from anywhere in Mississippi, with a “percentage of operator profits flowing to the state.”

“Each day, millions of Americans in 15 states have access to mobile sportsbooks, allowing them to place wagers on their favorite teams and leagues at home, while the activity fosters much-needed tax revenue,” Moran said. “Unfortunately, Mississippi does not allow online sports betting, which the bill seeks to change.” The Senator regretted that the Magnolia State has been leaving money on the table by not authorizing digital sports betting, adding that now “it is time to modernize Mississippi’s gambling offerings and to do what’s best for its residents.”

What Will the Bill Change?

Some casinos currently offer digital gaming apps around their property as they are forced by law to geofence their offerings within a restricted area. Moran’s measures would lift that restriction, besides allowing state residents to use national sportsbook giants such as DraftKings and FanDuel.

Moran, also a Vice-Chairman of the Senate Gaming Committee, observed that illegal, unregulated, and offshore sportsbook sites are prevailing across the US. He said these sites neither contribute to state revenue nor can they ensure consumer protection issues, including responsible gaming tools and secure payments.

Briefly, SB 2732 will legalize mobile betting in Mississippi, with the state looking up north to Tennessee, which recently launched its online-only sports betting market in November 2020, with remarkable success. The latest proposal comes just days apart from another similar measure proposed by Senator Scott DeLane.

What Are the Bill’s Chances of Success?

As for the SB 2732 bill’s chances of getting through, it could face serious challenges following comments of Speaker of the House Philip Gunn last month. “I have been in consultation with chairman and those in charge with the responsibility of knowing this (the House Gaming Committee),” Gunn said. “They are very cautious about it at this point… they are not in favor of it.”

However, in stark contrast to this pessimistic statement, Mississippi Gaming and Hospitality Association Executive Director Larry Gregory was hopeful about the possibility of online sports gaming during a Senate Gaming Committee hearing. Gregory believed Mississippi will see some version of online sports betting legislation in 2021, believing many people would like to have it offered in the Magnolia State.

During the same hearing, Moran quoted Allen Godfrey, Executive Director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, who said during a hearing in December that Mississippi’s $370 million 2019 sports betting handle was a “far cry” from New Jersey’s $850 million in a single month of sports betting handle, which the Garden State posted in September 2020. Regulating the mobile sports betting industry would help the state to up their revenue figures and compete with the industry leaders.

How Have We Reached Here?

Despite its small size, Mississippi has 31 casinos besides numerous sports betting licensees. Moran is using momentum from the already legalized retail sports betting, currently allowing only in-person wagers. Sports betting began in Mississippi months after the striking down of PASPA in 2018.

SB 2732 comes after three mobile sports betting bills died during last year’s session, and another failed in 2019. If it passes, Mississippi will become the 16th US state to offer mobile sports betting.

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