The Mississippi House committee has made a significant stride by advancing the Mississippi Mobile Sports Wagering Act, setting the stage for the legalization of online sports betting in the state. The move comes in response to the increasing demand for mobile sports wagering and aims to address concerns about the prevalence of illegal betting operations.
While brick-and-mortar sportsbooks have been legal in Mississippi for some time, online betting has been notably absent due to concerns about potential impact on the revenue of physical casinos in the state. However, with the rise of illegal offshore sports betting platforms, legislators recognize the need to regulate and capitalize on the thriving market.
The Mississippi Mobile Sports Wagering Act, spearheaded by Republican Rep. Casey Eure of Saucier, requires online gambling companies to enter into contracts with brick-and-mortar establishments. The act is expected to generate substantial tax revenue for the state, with estimates exceeding $25 million annually, while also ensuring that physical stores remain competitive.
Despite provisions to safeguard existing businesses, critics have raised concerns about the protection of smaller rural casinos, which may not benefit from the safeguards outlined in the bill. There are fears that the convenience of online gambling could deter bettors from visiting these establishments, negatively impacting their businesses.
Rep. Eure contends that legalizing mobile sports betting will significantly reduce the illegal market, preventing funds from being funneled out of the state. Mississippi currently leads in online black market sports betting searches in the U.S., losing an estimated $3 billion annually in illegal bets that could otherwise be taxed and used for essential expenses.
GeoComply Solutions Inc., a geolocation data company, has reported millions of instances where mobile devices in Mississippi accessed legal sports betting sites in neighboring states. With Tennessee and Louisiana legalizing online sports betting since 2020 and 2022, respectively, Mississippi is expected to follow suit to capitalize on the trend.
The bill has passed the committee stage and now awaits consideration by the full House. If successfully passed into law, Mississippi would join the increasing number of states leveraging online sports betting to boost revenues and provide residents with a safe, sustainable alternative to black market operators. However, lawmakers must demonstrate the political will to push on with reforms and ensure that bettors receive necessary protections.