In 2021, three state representatives introduced bills that would regulate sports betting. State Senator Jennifer Morrison, State Representative Earl Longbottom and Representative David Bennett of Mississippi are all sponsors of the proposed bills. These three representatives believe the proposed law changes would benefit their home state. They all also believe it would encourage more people to take part in Mississippi sports betting. Let’s look at these three Mississippi sports betting laws and how they could affect sports betting odds.
The three proposed bills would have changed the betting landscape in Mississippi by allowing all casinos to have an internet sportsbook. SB 2396 would have made internet gambling, a legal way to place a bet. SB 2732 proposed expanding current law to allow live online sports betting statewide. And lastly, HB1042 would have required a licensed sportsbook to operate electronically within the state. Although it hasn’t been officially passed, all three of these laws have been placed on the upcoming primary election ballot. So, how will the general public feel about all three of these laws?
Well, according to opponents, none of the three bills will make any difference in the black book. According to the Mississippi State Athletic Association, legalized sports betting would open the doors for all bookies, thereby removing an incentive to build casinos in Mississippi. Opponents argue that if there are no bookies in Mississippi, there can be no gambling, thus no increase in gambling related crimes. However, with no bookies in Mississippi, the result would be no increase in sports betting odds either.
What’s more, the opponents don’t believe that legalizing sports betting would increase revenues for the state. According to them, the majority of states have similar taxes on in-person gambling and Mississippi doesn’t appear to be unique in that regard. The House proposed a 5% tax on sports bets, similar to the current tax on poker but with an annual exemption. In addition to that, the House also wants to allow online gambling, with no regulation as to how it might occur, or whether it would even take place at all.
Opponents of the legalization of sports betting also claim that the House is itself taking advantage of gambling in the state. By taxing and regulating gambling, they argue, the House is “repudiating” the concept of in-person gambling. Whether or not this is an accurate assessment, one thing is clear: the House is not allowing the legalization of sports betting to happen, and if it passes, it will most likely have a profound impact on the gaming industry.
The House did receive support for one aspect of the Sports Betting Reform Act, House Bill 1040. This act allows online sports betting revenue to be sent directly to the state’s gambling fund instead of being sent to the casino at the county level. However, House members rejected the proposal, perhaps because it doesn’t go far enough. For example, it only allows gambling software developers to deposit the money into the state fund, and does not regulate how the money is used.
Many in the gambling industry have criticized House members for impeding the expansion of online gambling. According to them, House members are acting “like politicians” and “pulling a fast one.” Critics say that by banning sports betting from the state’s regulated casinos, it is essentially discriminating against the sportsbooks, which may ultimately force many of them to move out of the state altogether. In addition, some say that the new rules will hurt the legitimate operators of the state’s legitimate gambling facilities, many of which are the very same ones that have been operating for years in the face of this legislation. For example, there are currently two racetrack facilities in Mississippi; the one that was affected by House Bill 1040 is located in New Orleans.
Both sides have legitimate concerns, and the House has made some changes to their initial plan to legalize sports betting. But the House did not reach a compromise that the Senate could live with. House members voted against it, and House Majority Leader Rep. Roger Dollis (R-appy) said that he would continue to fight against it in the coming session. For now, it looks as if in-person betting will be legalized in the fall of 2021, but casinos and horse racing betting will most likely wait until at least late in the spring for an improvement. However, if the House passes a bill to legalize sports betting, it may set the ball rolling for a major change in the way professional sports betting is conducted in the state.