Online sports betting appears to be catching on in the South. Twice on Thursday, a legislative chamber in a Southern state voted in favor of legalizing online sports wagering.
The Mississippi House of Representatives voted 97-14 in favor of HB 774, a bill to authorize online sports betting through the state’s 26 casinos.
As online sports wagering has spread across the country, it has had a more difficult time getting support in traditionally conservative Bible Belt states in the South. But the Mississippi House and Georgia Senate both approved online sports betting Thursday.
It wasn’t lost on bill sponsor Rep. Casey Eure that other Southern states were taking action.
“I think we’ve done a very good job with this bill. Today, Georgia’s Senate passed sports betting out. As we all know, in the next couple weeks Alabama is coming with a full gaming package. All I’m trying to do is give another product to our casino industry in our state to be competitive, and I feel like that’s what we’re doing. So as you look at surrounding states and what happened today in Georgia, just keep that in mind that we keep Mississippi moving forward.”
Mississippi already legalized sports betting on casino properties in 2018. The online sports betting bill still needs approval from the Mississippi Senate and Gov. Tate Reeves before becoming law.
Details of Mississippi online sports betting bill
Eure’s online sports betting bill seems to be moving quickly, but it is a long time coming.
Eure just introduced HB 774 on Monday, then passed it out of the House Gaming Committee on Tuesday before bringing it to the floor Thursday.
However, Eure co-chaired a task force studying Mississippi online sports betting last fall. Key details of the bill include:
- Allows 26 Mississippi casinos each to partner with one online sports betting company.
- Taxes online sports betting revenue at 12%.
- Appoints the Mississippi Gaming Commission to regulate online sports betting.
- Requires participants to be at least 21 years of age.
- Allows for remote creation and funding of online sports betting accounts.
- Declares that fantasy sports contests are legal in Mississippi and provides some regulatory requirements.
Coming out of committee, HB 774 provided 4% tax revenue to the five counties with casino properties. Eure amended the bill on the floor to eliminate the local contribution and put all 12% into the Emergency Road and Bridge Repair Fund.
Eure cited revenue projects for Mississippi online sports betting between $25 million to $35 million, but said that total could approach $50 million.
Some lawmakers are concerned with local impact
Online sports betting can be a great equalizer for casinos in more rural locations. However, some Mississippi legislators expressed concern that smaller casinos in their districts may not be able to get an online sports betting partner or will have trouble competing in an online market.
Eure assured his colleagues that he has heard there are 30-to-40 online sports wagering platforms interested in Missouri, so he believes all 26 casinos should be able to find a partner. And while casinos can only partner with one online sports betting operator, online sports betting companies have the option of partnering with more than one casino.
Rep. Robert Johnson attempted an amendment to keep revenue in the counties where mobile bets were placed. It was dismissed with a 77-35 vote.
The concerns didn’t stop HB 774 from passing overwhelmingly. The bill now moves on to the Senate, which is in session until May 5.