Mississippi Online Sports Betting Takes Step Forward After Passing House Vote

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  • The new bill, if adopted, would add an estimated $25-35 million annually
  • Mississippi legalized retail sports betting back in 2018
  • An amendment designed to protect smaller casinos was overruled by House Republicans 

The Mississippi House passed a bill to legalize online sports betting last Thursday, bringing it within shouting distance of complementing its retail gambling market with an online one.

The Bill, known as the Mississippi Mobile Sports Wagering Act, would authorize mobile sports betting under the condition that all sportsbook operators partner with retail establishments. The vote ended 97-14 in favor of the bill, which will now head to a Senate committee before potentially becoming law.

Retail sports betting has been legal in Mississippi since 2018, the year sports betting became legal federally. However, lawmakers have held off on adopting online gambling legislation out of fear of potential harm to local casinos.

Making progress 

Rep. Casey Eure (R-Saucier), the bill’s primary sponsor, said Mississippi stands to gain an estimated $25-35 million in annual tax funding through the addition of online sportsbooks. That money is currently funneled through illegal operators, thereby taking away from potential public improvement projects.

“It’s estimated that $64 billion was wagered on illegal sports bets across the United States last calendar year,” said Eure. “Mississippi makes up 5% of that market, which is $3 billion.”

The new bill would remove all barriers to entry involving retail locations, including the registration process. Bettors would be allowed to create legal sportsbook accounts anywhere using their phone or laptop as long as they are inside Mississippi’s borders. 

The first version of Eure’s bill advanced out of a House committee on Tuesday. It detailed a 12% tax rate on sportsbooks’ gross gaming revenue and suggested one-third go to areas where casinos are located and two-thirds be awarded to the state.

The version that passed the House’s vote on Thursday included an amendment that directed all of the 12% tax to the state’s kitty for emergency road and bridge repairs.

All interested operators, for example, FanDuel, DraftKings, and BetMGM. need to agree to deals with brick-and-mortar locations before they can begin their operations. Each of the state’s 26 casinos can only have one commercial sportsbook partner, but each sportsbook can have multiple casino partners.

Finding the right balance 

Rep. Robert Johnson III (D-Natchez), the House minority leader in a GOP-controlled chamber, suggested casinos receive a portion of profits from online wagers made within 40 miles of retail locations in an attempt to protect smaller establishments. 

According to Johnson, external operators would have no incentive to join forces with smaller casinos if the majority of customers flowed to marquee establishments near the gulf. His amendment would ensure the less-visited locations still profited from the legalization of “inevitable” online sports betting.

“The only people making money are the two people that have a contract,” Johnson said. “The money from the platforms, you bet in Mississippi it doesn’t go to every casino in Mississippi. It goes to the casino that you have a contract with.”

Republicans ultimately overruled the proposal.

Eure said that he has been in contact with the Senate leaders as he awaits the Senate Gaming Committee’s decision on the future of the bill. The committee has until April 2 to decide on its future.

Although there are no professional sports teams in Mississippi, there’s still a huge gambling market for pro and amateur sports. Teams such as Ole Miss and Mississippi State offer the most intrigue, as do SEC schools in nearby states. 

Alabama is the only one of Mississippi’s bordering states that does not allow online sports betting (or legal sports betting in any form).

Louisiana reported $2.64 billion in handle and $303.1 million in revenue from sports betting in fiscal year 2023. Its $40.3 million in year-end tax revenue puts it just ahead of where Mississippi expects to be once it gets its market up and running.