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Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, or PASPA, unconstitutional in 2017, the Magnolia State quickly repealed the portions of its law prohibiting sports betting in Mississippi and was ready to move on to licenses and regulations.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.
Although a majority of US states still haven’t legalized sports betting, there are some states that did. And the Magnolia State is one of them. Actually, not only is sports betting legal in Mississippi but this state has also passed a pre-emptive legislation to ensure that some future federal bans would not be able to overturn it. Of course, since 2018, there is no such worry any longer. About a year after Mississippi made sports betting officially legal, basically the same was done by the US Supreme Court.
The Mississippi Gaming Commission is the governmental body in charge of everything regarding every type of gambling, sports betting included. One of the regulations the Commission adopted in 2018 was that all forms of gambling need to take place in-person. In layman’s terms, this means that if you want to bet in Mississippi, you can do it only in a licensed brick-and-mortar casino. Remote betting is currently out of the question.
Will Mississippi legalize online betting anytime soon? To predict the future of gambling in Mississippi it’s best to take a look at the history of gambling in this state. It’s been pretty illustrious, to say the least. This is why it’s not crazy to assume there will be no problems with future gambling laws, including those laws related to online sports betting.
Ancient History of Gambling in Mississippi
When you think of gambling in the US, your mind probably wonders off straight to Nevada. But, Mississippi has also been one of the forerunners of gambling in the United States. Long before Las Vegas was founded, Mississippi was thought of as a gambling paradise.
The bond between Mississippi and gambling goes all the way back to pre-Colombian times, when Choctaws and Chickasaws used to call the Mississippi Valley their home. Native American tribes that inhabited the area now known as Mississippi State had a special place for gambling in their culture. According to early sources, sports betting was their favorite form of gambling.
Of course, the sports Mississippians commonly bet on today, like American Football and basketball, weren’t yet invented when Native Americans ruled these lands. Instead, other forms of sports were popular, including a game called “ishtaboli” which literally translates as “war’s younger brother”. It seems Native Americans were on the same page as George Orwell who called sports “war minus the shooting”. And in accordance with its name, this sport was highly combative, resembling a combination of modern-day football and lacrosse, but without any safety gear.
Another similarity to modern sports is that ishtaboli was also a kind of game very interesting for betting. Wagers on the outcome of the match were pretty common, not only among spectators but the players as well. More often than not, the team that won the game used to get all the belongings of the opposition as a reward.
And it’s been like that for centuries. Then the Spanish came. But, instead of putting an end to gambling, they embraced it, bringing along their own sports betting traditions. While the American Revolution was raging up north, the Spanish were constructing numerous horse racing tracks down south. And in this period, one of the biggest race tracks on the continent was built in Natchez, the Fleetfield Race Track.
Gambling in Modern Mississippi
Some two decades after the Fleetfield Race Track was constructed, Mississippi became a part of the United States as the 20th state of the Union. From the gamblers’ point of view, the administrative change didn’t mean much. Gambling remained pretty much the same big part of Mississippians’ daily lives and it is pretty obvious why that’s the case – the Gulf Coast and the Mississippi River make this state a transition hub for many people traveling across the continent.
Entrepreneurs from Mississippi weren’t crazy not to take advantage of the geographical location of the state. They saw their chance and seized it, which prompted the opening of all sorts of gambling venues across the state, but especially along the Gulf Coast, an area that became known as the Strip.
Similarly to the Las Vegas Strip, the one in Mississippi also offered much more than just gambling. The establishments along the Strip focused on the entertainment of the guests, which is why they used to bring big-name performers to the Strip, including the biggest of all, Elvis Presley.
But, then the 1950s came and with them came the gambling ban. A group called Biloxi Protestant Ministerial Association started a large-scale lobbying campaign which forced the government to take action against gambling venues, suggesting that casinos were responsible for the increased crime rates in the area. For the next couple of decades, although still legal, Mississippi casino industry did lose much of its glamour.
It wasn’t until the late 1980s before gambling saw its big comeback to Mississippi. First, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 came into power, allowing Native American tribes to run casinos on tribal lands. Then, in 1990, the Mississippi Gaming Control Act allowed casinos to run freely in certain parts of the state, namely along the Mississippi River and the Gulf Coast.
Rewind almost three decades to the future and there is a total of 29 casinos operating within the borders of the Magnolia State, some of which have sports betting in their offer along with other forms of gambling.
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 market</strong< when Beau 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.
Although sports betting is perfectly legal in Mississippi, not all casinos accept sports wagers. In fact, there are 23 casino venues that have this form of gambling in their offer. Here are a couple of the most famous ones:
In 2018, Beau Rivage in Biloxi, together with Gold Strike casino in Tunica, became the first Mississippi casino to introduce sports betting. But, that’s not the only fun fact about this casino – the Beau Rivage casino is the tallest building in the entire state and one of the most popular resorts in this part of the United States.
Gold Strike (Tunica) is owned by MGM Resorts International and same as any other business from this brand family, Gold Strike also provides its players with the highest level of service. We’re not talking about service regarding Gold Strike casino and sportsbook, but also regarding its hotel and restaurants.
Hollywood Casino Gulf Coast (Bay Saint Louis) is one of several Mississippi casinos that was demolished by the Hurricane Katrina in 2005. But, Hollywood Casino Gulf Coast has risen from the ashes to become one of the most-visited casinos in the state.
Pearl River Resort (Choctaw) is run by the Choctaw Tribe of Mississippi and is the first tribal casino to offer sports betting outside Nevada.
Online gambling falls into a gray area not only in Mississippi, but in a majority of US States. Technically speaking, there are no explicit laws banning this activity. But, at the same time, there are no specific laws that make it legal. Speaking of laws, it is legal to wager money on sports events electronically, but only if it’s done within a licensed land-based casino.
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.