While Mississippians archaically still have to visit a casino to place legal bets on sports, even online bets, there is some progress toward changing that. A report from a special task force on the premise of expanding legal online sports betting to become available all over the state is now public.
The task force’s report presents several models for how Mississippi could tax expanded online sports betting and projections for tax revenue. At this point, it remains uncertain which of them the state legislature will adopt or if it will embrace any of them.
The status quo of online sports betting in Mississippi
Currently, online sports betting in Mississippi is legal but with one huge caveat. To place bets legally, users must not only use licensed sportsbooks but also must physically be on the premises of a connected casino when they place their bets.
For that reason, most Mississippi casinos don’t even bother with offering online sports betting to guests. At this time, only a handful of them do. Most of the major national sportsbook brands, except for BetMGM, haven’t shown interest in partnering with a Mississippi casino yet.
That could change if Mississippi amends its law to allow legal online sports betting throughout the state as opposed to only on-site at casinos. It could also mean a lot more revenue for the state from the expanded gambling.
Exactly how much depends on how the state taxes that activity.
Task force presents choices for Mississippi legislators
In the task force’s report, several options are presented for how Mississippi could tax revenue from expanded online sports betting. Those options include simply maintaining the current 8% rate on sportsbooks’ win.
As other options, the report presents taxing the amount of money that sportsbooks take in bets as opposed to the portion of that money that they keep. Currently, neighboring Tennessee taxes legal sports betting that way.
The task force’s projections for revenue for the state vary based on those models, ranging from as little as $5 million to $27 million per year. To reach those estimates, the task force relied on data from similar populations and also data about attempts to use legal sportsbooks in other states while in Mississippi.
Right now, it’s unclear which if any of the models that legislators favor. Maintaining the status quo might be the preference of the majority of members of Mississippi’s government.
Could 2024 be the year for some movement?
In each of the past six years, at least one bill that would expand legal online sports betting across Mississippi has seen the light of day in Jackson. Every time, however, the night fell quite rapidly on those efforts.
To date, none of those bills have even survived committee votes. The next legislative term, which begins Jan. 2, 2024, could see more of the same. Mississippi Gaming Commission Executive Director Jay McDaniel spoke about that earlier this month with Jaylon Anderson of WJTV, saying:
“I expect you’ll see at least bills be introduced every year. Since 2018, we have seen at least a bill be introduced. What we have not seen is one of those bills come out of a committee yet for a floor debate.
So, your guess is as good as mine as to whether we’ll get to that. So, I think you can expect in January to see a bill. The question will be whether that bill actually comes out of a committee for debate to be passed.”
At the same time, the task force’s report represents some progress. It will give legislators in favor of expansion some talking points to draw upon in the next session.
For now, though, it’s just words on paper in terms of affecting whether Mississippians have to visit casinos to bet on sports.