Mississippi Mobile Sports Betting On The Move At Last

February 1, 2024
Since Mississippi launched retail sports betting almost six years ago, multiple bills to authorize mobile wagering have been introduced in the legislature but never passed the committee stage, until now.

Since Mississippi launched retail sports betting almost six years ago, multiple bills to authorize mobile wagering have been introduced in the legislature but never passed the committee stage, until now.

House Gaming Committee chairman Representative Casey Eure, a Republican, is the prime sponsor of House Bill 774 to authorize Mississippi casinos to offer mobile sports wagering on a state-wide basis, as in three of its neighboring states.

After being dead on arrival every year for since 2019, the committee voted to pass the bill Tuesday (January 30).

The bill is the third mobile sports betting-related piece of legislation filed in Jackson since lawmakers returned to the state capital on January 2. House Bill 635 and House Bill 271 are identical, with HB 774 garnering bipartisan support.

The full House of Representatives adjourned after less than 20 minutes on Wednesday (January 31), ignoring the sports-betting bill for now and choosing instead to pass a bill to provide Medicaid health care for eligible pregnant women.

But Republican House Speaker Jason White told reporters that the chamber may still vote on the measure this week.

Eure also was co-chairman of a Mobile Online Sports Betting Task Force that met three times last year to gather policy ideas and hear concerns from several industry experts and operators after the House passed a resolution to study mobile sports wagering.

Retail sports betting launched in Mississippi casinos on August 1, 2018, but mobile wagering while not inside a casino has remained illegal amid industry concerns that access to mobile phone apps could harm the profits of the state’s casinos.

In neighboring Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana, online sports betting is legal. Only mobile sports betting is offered in Tennessee, while voters in 55 of Louisiana's 64 parishes approved a referendum to legalize both mobile and retail wagering. 

In December, the Tennessee Sports Wagering Council reported a gross handle of $493.3m that generated $9.1m in tax revenue, while the Louisiana Gaming Control Board reported a handle of more than $337.04m with net revenues of $55.8m. In Arkansas, sports betting posted $53m in handle and $5.8m in gross revenue last month. 

Louisiana taxes mobile wagering at 15 percent of revenues, and operators in Tennessee are subject to a privilege tax of 1.85 percent of gross online wagering handle.  Casino gaming, including sports betting, in Arkansas is subject to a tax of 13 percent on the first $150m of net casino gaming receipts and 20 percent on net casino gaming receipts exceeding $150m.

If Eure’s bill becomes law, mobile wagers will be taxed at 12 percent, with 4 percent collected by local governments, while the state will collect 8 percent. Estimates are that mobile sports betting could generate $25m to $35m annually in tax revenue.

Currently, Mississippi has 26 commercial casinos and three tribal casinos that all offer retail wagering.

Under the proposal, each casino can only partner with one mobile sports-betting operator. Every mobile wager will be tied to a brick-and-mortar casino to protect Mississippi’s land-based industry, Eure said.

Players would not have to physically visit a casino to register for a mobile sports-betting account. The registration process could happen remotely as long as it was done in Mississippi. 

The bill also contains provisions regarding fantasy sports, stating that “fantasy contests are legal in the state,” but prohibiting “the operator from participating in a fantasy contest” they offer, which may prohibit those pick’em games against the house.

Eure’s measure also includes mobile betting on horseracing, as well as allowing wagering on cruise ships whenever they are in the waters within the state, such as Biloxi Bay and St. Louis Bay, only if the county where the port is located has not prohibited gaming. 

Opposition to Eure’s bill or any measure expanding the state’s sports-betting offerings has been led by a group of six smaller operators who are concerned that the market will remain dominated by several larger land-based casino operators.

Democratic House Minority Leader Robert Johnson and other opponents fear the ease of mobile wagering would dissuade many patrons from traveling to rural casinos, negatively affecting their business.

“When you say protecting brick-and-mortar casinos, there’s no reason for a casino in Vicksburg, Natchez, or Greenville to believe that a large national sports [betting] company would have any incentive to partner with anybody other than the people they’re partnering with already,” Johnson told the Associated Press.     

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