Key findings from a Mississippi legislative committee report on introducing sports betting in 2024 has centered on protecting the state’s smaller casinos.
Retail sports betting, as well as mobile betting on-site at a licensed casino, has been legal in the state since 2018, and while multiple efforts have since been made to legalize statewide mobile betting, they have all quickly fizzled out.
The legislature earlier this year agreed to form what became the Mobile-Online Sports Betting Task Force, which represents the most concerted effort to date, and a report on the task force’s findings released by the state Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review (PEER) found 12 key policy areas for the state to consider in prospective legislation.
Pushback against the legalisation of mobile sports betting has come from smaller independent casinos concerned that mobile betting would not only cannibalize their land-based sports betting revenues, but also serve as a first step toward online casino gaming.
“To state it succinctly, statewide online sports betting will reduce our revenues, it will reduce jobs, and it will harm Mississippi,” said task force member Michael Bruffey, general counsel for Island View Casino Resort. “If statewide online sports betting is passed, Island View will lose its retail sports-betting business and the ancillary revenue and jobs that go along with it.”
“Even if we have an online gaming app, there is no way it can compete against the larger corporations with huge online gaming databases and outrageous player acquisition budgets,” he continued.
While some of the policy areas highlighted by the legislative task force focus on more industry general topics such as advertising, the use of official league data and problem gambling concerns, many are potential areas that could be used to protect smaller casinos.
The first is the tax rate, which is currently set between 4 percent and 8 percent for retail operators, depending on how much monthly revenue a casino brings in.
The report presents several revenue projections for tax rates as low as 8 percent for mobile and as high as 20 percent, while potentially keeping the smaller retail tax rates in place.
Another policy consideration highlighted is in-person registration, a requirement that has become a rarity in sports-betting legislation since the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.
Nevada is currently the only state that requires in-person registrations after similar provisions in states like Illinois and Iowa expired to permit full remote registration.
The report points out that due to the state boasting 26 casino operators in the state, allowing multiple online skins per casino would likely not be helpful to smaller operators.
It also flags a provision in neighboring Arkansas requiring land-based casino operators to retain 51 percent of online sports-betting revenues as a potential fit in Mississippi.
“Adopting a minimum revenue sharing component may have a greater impact,” the report says. “Although Mississippi may not require a 51 percent revenue share, mandating a minimum share (e.g., 20 percent) sets a floor for what each online sportsbook must pay to enter the Mississippi market, and may serve to limit the amount of online competition entering the market.”
Another provision the report suggests could be on the table is a county-by-county referendum to allow citizens to vote as to whether they want to opt out of sports betting in their local area. This concept is also borrowed from another neighboring state, as Louisiana conducted such a referendum in 2020.
Republican state Representative Casey Eure, who chaired the task force, said last month that he will file mobile sports-betting legislation in 2024.
The state’s legislative session begins on January 2 and runs through May 5.