A task force dedicated to producing recommendations for Mississippi legislators regarding the potential expansion of legal online sports betting in the state recently held a hearing. During that meeting, an interesting wrinkle became a subject of discussion.
If imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, neighboring Louisiana should be blushing. While Mississippi has some history of local sovereignty over “vice laws,” Louisiana has been the only place to apply that principle to online gambling so far.
Mississippi’s online betting expansion task force comes together
Earlier this year, Gov. Tate Reeves finalized a law creating a team composed of members of the state legislature, business leaders, and government workers. The 13 members will produce a report on possible online sports betting expansion in Mississippi by Dec. 15.
Currently, Mississippi law allows commercial and tribal casinos in the state to take bets on sporting events from people inside their facilities. That includes bets made using betting windows, kiosks, and mobile devices.
However, online betting becomes illegal once bettors leave those few casinos offering on-site online gambling. Among those are:
- Biloxi’s Treasure Bay Casino and Hotel
- Gold Strike Casino Resort in Tunica
- Multiple Pearl River Resort sites
The past few legislative sessions have brought attempts to expand the regulation of that activity to the entire state. However, the commission of the task force has been the closest thing to making that happen.
On Tuesday, the Mobile Online Betting Task Force held its first of two hearings. One of the issues discussed could translate into Mississippians deciding whether to allow online sports betting in their backyards via the vote.
Mississippi might let voters decide on expanding online gambling
In 2020, voters in Louisiana went to the ballot box to determine whether they would allow regulated sports betting in each parish. People in nine of those parishes defeated the measure, while the other 55 parishes approved the premise.
That general concept is by no means unique to Louisiana. Mississippi set up its regulated alcohol sales industry in much the same way. For example, according to a post by AP News, voters in Prentiss County weighed in on whether to approve the sale of alcohol within the city limits of Booneville in 2020.
That issue became less prominent a year later when Mississippi officially legalized alcohol possession statewide. However, the sale of alcohol remains somewhat of a patchwork from one town to the next in Mississippi.
According to Steve Wilson of The Center Square, letting voters in each county decide whether to allow online sports betting was among the topics of conversation at Tuesday’s task force hearing.
Mississippi Gaming Commission’s Jay McDaniel also covered taxation and how to utilize the new revenue. McDaniel wasn’t the only one to testify during the hearing. The discussion seemed comprehensive.
Informational hearing does little to reveal report’s direction
For the most part, task force members did more listening than discussing how to formulate their report during Tuesday’s hearing. Wilson reports that Penn Entertainment Director of Public Affairs and Government Relations Jason Tosches and West Virginia Delegate Shawn Fluharty also spoke at the hearing.
Both Fluharty and Tosches espoused the benefits of a regulated system for online sports betting. Among those were consumer protections and support for responsible gambling programs.
Representatives for other Mississippi casinos also took part in the hearing. Pat Evans of Legal Sports Report states casino executives were divided on the expansion issue. Some casino execs expressed concern that expansion would curtail foot traffic in their properties. Others supported the idea as a way to add a new revenue stream, though.
It’s too early to tell whether the task force’s report will present expanding online sports betting in a positive light. Furthermore, whether the report recommends the legislature leave the issue up to voters is still uncertain.
There is a possibility that may be one of the issues on the ballot in Mississippi in 2024, though.