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Deyan Dimitrov January 31, 2024 3 min read
Mississippi’s Push for Online Sports Betting Gains Momentum
The Magnolia State is one step closer to legalizing online sports wagering as proponents of the new bill hope to curb illegal operators and bolster the state budget
In a significant move, a Mississippi House committee successfully advanced the Mississippi Mobile Sports Wagering Act, paving the way for the legalization of online sports betting in the state. The bill aims to tap into the burgeoning demand for mobile sports wagering, addressing concerns about the thriving black market dominating the sector.
Legislators Aim To Protect Existing Businesses
While brick-and-mortar sportsbooks have been legal in Mississippi for some time, online betting has been conspicuously absent, partly due to fears that it might impact the revenue streams of the state’s physical casinos. However, with the growing prevalence of illegal offshore sports betting platforms, legislators recognize the need to regulate and capitalize on the lucrative market.
The Mississippi Mobile Sports Wagering Act, championed by Republican Rep. Casey Eure of Saucier, mandates that online gambling companies enter into contracts with brick-and-mortar establishments. The move is poised to bring substantial tax revenue to the state, with estimates surpassing $25 million annually. This approach should also guarantee that brick-and-mortar stores remain competitive.
Despite provisions to protect existing businesses, critics have raised concerns about protecting smaller casinos in rural areas, which do not benefit from the safeguards envisioned in the bill. Many fear that the ease of online gambling would dissuade many bettors from traveling, negatively impacting such establishments and their surrounding businesses.
A Legal Betting Alternative Will Curb Black Market Wagering
Rep. Eure contends that legalizing mobile sports betting will significantly diminish the illegal market, preventing it from siphoning funds out of the state. Mississippi currently occupies the leading position among US states in online black market sports betting searches. Eure emphasized that Mississippi lost approximately $3 billion yearly in illegal bets, while these funds could instead be taxed and used to cover vital expenses.
Once you legalize mobile sports betting, you do away with a lot of that illegal market. Across the US each year, illegal betting sites see about $64 billion in wagers. Mississippi makes up 5% of that market.Rep. Casey Eure
GeoComply Solutions Inc., a geolocation data company, revealed millions of instances where mobile devices in Mississippi accessed legal sports betting sites in neighboring states. Tennessee and Louisiana, adjacent to Mississippi, have legalized online sports betting since 2020 and 2022, respectively, and have achieved significant success. Rising interest among the populace means that regulated online wagering in Mississippi is a matter of time, prompting legislators to try and capitalize on the trend as quickly as possible.
The bill has cleared the committee stage and now awaits consideration by the full House. If successfully passed into law, Mississippi would join the growing number of states leveraging online sports betting to boost revenues and provide residents with a safe, sustainable alternative to black market operators. However, lawmakers must gather the political will to push on with reforms and ensure that bettors receive all necessary protections.