As bordering states such as Tennessee and Louisiana continue to produce impressive revenue from online wagering, Mississippi is finally taking a hard look at expanding its sports-betting operations to the internet.
On March 24, Republican Governor Tate Reeves signed into law a bill creating a 13-member task force to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the feasibility of online sports betting in Mississippi.
The results of the study are scheduled to be released to the public on December 15, setting the stage for the Mississippi legislature to propose, debate and approve an online wagering bill in 2024.
“I feel fairly confident that the [task force] and then the state will move in that direction,” Ronald Rychlak, a professor at the University of Mississippi School of Law, told VIXIO GamblingCompliance in an email.
“There is significant demand for app-based betting,” Rychlak said.
Since legalizing casinos in 1990, Mississippi has become known as the gaming industry’s regional leader in the South.
Just three months after the U.S. Supreme Court nullified a sports-betting ban on May 14, 2018, Mississippi also became the first southern state to legalize wagers on sporting events at brick-and-mortar casinos.
But Mississippi has balked at legalizing wagers online, opening the door for Tennessee and Louisiana to dominate the internet betting market in the South, and in Louisiana's case move past Mississippi in total gaming revenue.
Arkansas, which borders Mississippi to the east, also has legalized internet sports betting, while Alabama and Georgia have considered but not yet passed online wagering bills.
“One of the factors to consider in any potential legislation is the impact that the Mississippi market has felt from neighboring states legalizing online sports betting in their states in the last few years,” said Jay McDaniel, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission.
McDaniel is slated to be one of the 13 members on the Mississippi task force studying internet gambling.
The co-chairs of the task force will be leaders of the gaming committees in the Mississippi House and Senate and the co-chairs will appoint six of the other members of the task force.
The task force also will include the commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Revenue and the executive director of the Mississippi Gaming and Hospitality Association.
All task force members must be finalized by July 31.
Allen Godfrey, who preceded McDaniel as executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, said it is difficult to estimate how much additional revenue the state could receive from online sports betting.
“Once the report is complete, a better estimate would be available,” said Godfrey, who now works for the Mississippi Gaming and Hospitality Association.