Mississippi is one of a select group of states that have officially legalized sports betting. After the Supreme Court ruled the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, or PASPA, unconstitutional in 2017, the Magnolia State quickly repealed the portions of its law prohibiting sports betting in Mississippi and was ready to move on to licenses and regulations.
In the lead-up to the repeal of PASPA, Mississippi was almost completely ready in the statehouse and on August 1, 2018, the state became one of the first outside of Nevada to offer legal single-game wagering in the United States.
Gambling of all sorts has always been a part of Mississippi’s culture and economy, whether it’s been the poker rooms, offshore casinos, or sportsbooks. A total of 23 Mississippi properties now offer legal sports betting throughout the state and the Mississippi gulf region is the nation’s third-largest casino market, with about 30 casinos open for business.
It may have taken some time to all come together, but the Mississippi sports betting industry is all systems go and not showing any signs of slowing down.
Where Mississippi has been
Officially, Mississippi formalized its gambling industry back in 1990 with the passage of the Mississippi Gaming Control Act. This law allowed for the operations of riverboat casinos in coastal counties. Their first casino would open two years later and was actually located on the water, a riverboat from Iowa.
These riverboats brought plenty of economic growth to the entire region before Hurricane Katrina made landfall in 2005. The superstorm ruined Biloxi and Gulfport, destroying nearly every casino. When owners vowed to rebuild, the law was altered to allow casinos on dry land but within at least 800 feet of the water to avoid a repeat of the disaster.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina (2005), Mississippi altered laws to allow for land based casinos to be built.
The Mississippi gulf region is since rebuilt and better than ever. Over 30 casinos have opened since Katrina, and with the PASPA overturned, more growth could be on the way.
The state was not done with just casinos, though, and Mississippi was one of the first states to look deeper into the benefits of sports betting. In 2014, the Mississippi House Gaming Committee created the Internet Gaming Taskforce to study the broad topic. The comprehensive “fact-finding” mission on the regulated industries of other states and obstacles specific to Mississippi sports betting stated:
“To date, it appears that the actual revenue generated is far behind the revenue projected by the introduction of Internet gaming. In addition, it would seem the most likely way for Internet gaming to be productive is for states to form compacts with each other, in order to make the payoffs attractive. There are technology issues that Mississippi would have that other less rural states may not encounter, while not preventing Internet gaming from occurring, it may be more frustrating for the patron trying to logon and determining if they are located in the state or outside of the state. As for sports betting, it is still uncertain as to whether a state can overcome the federal ban.”
In 2017, Mississippi, like many other states, legalized the new gambling craze: daily fantasy sports. More importantly, the Fantasy Contest Act (H 967) laid out the regulatory framework for the entire Mississippi sports betting industry, following a similar roadmap of other states.
Mississippi’s daily fantasy sports law was sure to include another statute with broad ramifications. In it, the state altered several definitions and provisions in the Gaming Control Act of 1972, including the one banning sports betting in the state. Actually, they didn’t include anything, they just never used the words “sports betting,” so, essentially, the new daily fantasy sports law removed the prohibition against it.
Once the Supreme Court found the PASPA to be unconstitutional in May of 2017, the Mississippi Gaming Commission was ready and quickly released draft regulations to govern sports betting. Then, after a 30-day review period, those regulations became the law of the land and licensed gaming operators began applying to offer sports betting.
The first sports wagers where placed on August 1st, 2018, a historic moment for Mississippi.
The MGM won the race to be first to come live to marketBeau Rivage and Gold Strike accepted the first sports wagers in Mississippi history on August 1, 2018. Sam’s Town, Horseshoe and IP Casino weren’t far behind as their sportsbooks opened shortly thereafter.
Since Mississippi has begun taking sports wagers, the state has had its share of ups and downs. Coming to market August 1st was important for the industry as the state did not miss out on any of the football season. That’s NFL and NCAA because, as everyone knows, Mississippi is prime football country. However, the betting public would have a great month in October and into November.
At one point, Mississippi held more than $1.6 million on nearly $45 million wagered for a 3.76% win. This means revenue barely grew while the handle increased by over $12 million. Not a strong start, but not the end of the world. These things happen, after all, especially in new markets.
While other states like New Jersey are doing better with their initial run with sports betting, Mississippi has something the other states don’t, and that’s location. No other neighboring states are close to passing or even considering the legalization and regulation of sports betting. This will allow them to continue to draw from other states, unlike the states in the mid-atlantic and northeast corridor. Expect Mississippi sports betting to continue to learn and grow.
Brick and Mortar
The Mississippi Gaming Commission regulates the entire sports betting industry, which includes issuing licenses to eligible establishments. Gambling is limited to water- and land-based casinos in Mississippi, and that restriction extends to sports betting, too. Beau Rivage in Biloxi and Gold Strike in Tunica were the first two Mississippi casinos to accept sports wagers on August 1 of 2018. Since then, many more sportsbooks have opened and there are now over 20 operating in the state.
As written, current Mississippi law limit gambling to those physically present in a licensed casino. Electronic sports betting is permitted, but only when it is conducted on-site. No mobile or online wagering can take place off the grounds of a casino as of yet. However, there is favorable language in the books which could open Mississippi up to being able to have online sports betting.