Mississippi Sports Betting Law
The laws regulating sports wagering in the Magnolia State underwent a major shift as recently as 2017, when the state’s lawmakers quietly legalized placing bets on sporting events by removing a provision of the longstanding Mississippi Gaming Control Act (GCA). Originally passed way back in 1972, the GCA occupied Title 75, Chapter 76 (§§ 75-76) of the Mississippi Code, and it lays out the basic definitions of what constitutes a Mississippi sportsbook, licensing procedures, allowable sportsbook operations, what to do about suspicious wagers, how to record transactions and so on. The revised Mississippi sports betting law went on the books during what can only be described as a time of great anticipation, as politicians, gaming operators and sports betting enthusiasts all began to seriously consider the possibility of a decision by the US Supreme Court to overturn a key federal anti-sports betting law.
That long-awaited time finally arrived a little more than a year later. On May 14, 2018, the SCOTUS justices ruled by way of a 6-3 majority decision that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (also known as PASPA, for short) was in direct violation of the States’ Rights principles of the 10th Amendment. Seeing as the primary consequence of PASPA’s passage was to limit the spread of legal sports betting to just four states – Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon, though only the first ever had what could be termed a full-fledged sports betting industry – PASPA’s defeat ushered in a seismic shift in the national sports betting landscape.
With PASPA now basically consigned to the dustbin of history, all 50 states are free to pursue whatever course of action they so choose regarding legalization and implementation of regulatory measures to govern the practice of sports wagering. Mississippi’s lawmakers, however, were way ahead of the game and passed the revision of the state’s GCA before the topic started to draw massive attention from the major professional sports leagues, the principle proponents of PASPA from back in the early ‘90s and the main opponents of the law’s repeal. By eliminating the GCA’s ban on sports betting, Mississippi sportsbooks could technically become a reality as soon as PASPA was stricken from the rolls, and, as that is the reality on the ground today, the Hospitality State stands poised to offer a comprehensive slate of sports betting options to its residents and visitors according to the details laid out in the revised Mississippi sports betting law.
Operators of Mississippi sportsbooks will find themselves working under some fairly favorable rules and regulations, provided they meet some basic qualifications. The first and most critical requirement found in the revised GCA relates to licensing, as Part 9, Chapter 2 says licensure will be limited to entities or persons that already hold a gaming license AND has received permission from the Mississippi Gaming Commission to open a sportsbook. Basically, that means that any of the state’s 28 or so casinos will be eligible to pursue the necessary licensure to open a sportsbook if they stick to the rules as laid out in the new Mississippi sports betting law.
Once open, the sportsbook in question will need to keep a cash reserve of not less than $50,000 or the sum of all amounts accepted as wagers, all amounts of winning wagers not yet paid out to bettors and the total amount of all accounts held by customers. That sounds perhaps a little more complicated than it really is, but basically the operator of a land- or water-based Mississippi sportsbook will need to keep enough money on-hand at all times to cover what it owes to the folks that it accepted bets from. Other than that, the only real requirements are to adopt and adhere to written, comprehensive house rules – and these must be available for patrons to read as well – that specify the types of wagers available, how winning tickets are paid, the redemption period for winning tickets and so on.
It is permissible for bettors to wager on all professional and collegiate sporting events, as well as amateur athletic contests that are sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee (so that means the Summer and Winter Olympic Games are fair game for betting in Mississippi according to these rules). Other stipulations are laid out in the GCA’s Rule 3.111, which makes additional commentary on the annotated Mississippi Code §§ 75-76-89 and 75-76-5. We will discuss some of the other particulars of allowable wagers and those that aren’t permitted in the next section of this guide to Mississippi sports betting law.
As for mobile apps at Mississippi sportsbooks, you are going to be allowed to use your mobile device, handheld, smartphone, tablet, whatever, for placing wagers on sports, but you will have to be physically located on the casino premises in order to do so. There is some room for improvement in this area, as more and more of the sports betting hobby moves online, and in today’s internet gambling landscape that essentially means operators will have to have a mobile betting presence in order to remain competitive. The possibility exists that Mississippi sports betting law can be amended again to allow for expanded mobile wagering rights, including an off-site wagering option like the casino sportsbooks in Las Vegas are allowed to offer per state statute, but we would not advise getting your hopes up just yet.
Mississippi sports betting law’s prohibitions are actually fairly sparse, all things considered. The biggest and most obvious things that aren’t allowed according to the law involve the kinds events that can be bet on and obvious things like “suspicious wagers.” We will get into what falls into those broad categories in a little while, but all definitions come straight from the Mississippi Code Annotated, §§ 75-76-89 and 75-76-5. Additional prohibitions in Mississippi sports betting law involve the places – and methods – that bettors will be able to actually use to place their wagers.
First up, what the state’s sports gambling law means regarding “prohibited wagers” is that the regulations do not allow bettors to place wagers on amateur athletic events (except sports at the Olympics or those sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee), any sport in which the participants themselves are the ones placing the bets. You also are barred from placing the wagers on the results of any election for public office (fortunately the offshore sports betting sites serving Mississippi players do allow these kinds of bets, because they are the most fun you can have betting online). Finally, there is a provision in Rule 3.11, Subsection 4, that says the holder of the office of Mississippi’s gaming commissioner has the final word on whether or not a sportsbook proprietor can offer action on “any event which the Executive Director deems to be contrary to public policy.”
As might be expected, suspicious wagering patterns have to be reported according to Mississippi sports betting law, but what kind of behavior counts as suspicious enough to warrant generating a report? It’s a question worth asking, and the newly minted law in the Hospitality State clears it up fairly succinctly. According to Rule 3.12, Sections A and B, betting activities deemed suspicious are those that indicate an intended violation of any existing federal, state or local law or regulation, attempting to bet on non-approved amateur sports (so no high school sports betting) or even wildly unexpected wagers (basically that means bets that don’t make good sense in terms of basic betting intelligence). Perhaps the biggest no-no is obviously a bet that indicates an intent to knowingly “violate the integrity of the sport in which it was placed” – so that means you can’t obviously place a bet if you are trying to cheat or fix the game in order to win.
Though mobile betting on the premises of a Mississippi sportsbook (that is, inside the casino in which the book is located) is allowed, it is not permissible for bettors to use their mobile phone, tablet or other similar devices to wager on sports outside the casino grounds. As we previously mentioned, the “grounds” in this case are defined as being inside the four walls of the casino facility proper, and do not include any garages or parking lots. Off-site mobile betting (as described in §§ 75-76-89, 75-76-89 and 97-33-1) has been off the table from the beginning of the discussion about what should be contained in the new Mississippi sports betting laws because legislators view mobile betting as too much of a risk in terms of keeping underage individuals out of gambling activities.
Although the new Mississippi sports betting laws are a great step in the right direction in terms of bringing land-based casino sportsbooks into the 21st century, they are not as progressive as they might have been, and certainly not as much as other, more comprehensive sports betting laws passed in other states. That being said, because the Magnolia State’s revised laws on sports wagering do not permit online betting (though they do not preclude the possibility this could be offered in the future), there no little risk that legal offshore sportsbooks will be impacted by Mississippi’s sports betting law.
Licensed and regulated overseas-based sportsbook websites have been a mainstay in the US sports betting market for years, and that is largely due to the ambiguous legal situation in which most states are seemingly content to leave the matter. At any rate, because Mississippi gambling law does not address online wagering, that means that you will be in the clear from a legal point of view if you decide to place your bets on sports at website operated overseas. Legal offshore sportsbook sites like Bovada, BetOnline, SportsBetting, BetDSI and 5Dimes – just to name a few – are among the most reputable operators in the entire industry, and no user of Mississippi sportsbooks has ever gone to jail for using one, so the choice is yours.
While it is not yet clear how Mississippi sportsbooks are going to be taxed, there are a few proposals floating around in state government at the moment. That’s okay for now, as Mississippi’s newly legalized sports betting market is still probably a few months away from coming on-line in any meaningful sense, but you can bet there is a sense of urgency inside the capitol building in Jackson as lawmakers debate the relative merits of one tax scheme or another. The Magnolia State’s currently proposed tax plans for its sports betting industry have not attracted the attention of outside interest groups that have lobbied extensively in other states, which means there has not been pressure from representatives of the professional sports leagues for the state to pay an “integrity fee” on top of local taxes.
This is similar to the situation in which Mississippi found itself during the run-up to the US Supreme Court’s May 2018 decision to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA). By quietly passing its sports betting reform before many other states around the country joined the apparent movement to legalize sports betting in their own jurisdictions, Mississippi’s lawmakers and casino industry in Biloxi and elsewhere stayed out of the fight with the leagues’ combined lobbying arm.
That being said, the most recent regulatory bill that would set a tax on Mississippi sportsbooks’ revenue does propose a fairly high tax rate. House Bill 1154 (sponsored by state Rep. Becky Curry, R-Brookhaven), which died in committee back in January of 2018 and has not yet been revisited, would have created a study committee to set taxation policies for the state regarding casino sportsbooks. The proposed rate called for prior to HB 1154 not making it out of the committee stage was 12 percent of handle, which is higher than the rate proposed by New York, which has assessed a 10 percent tax on handle, but lower than Pennsylvania’s 16 percent tax.
The biggest difference between the situation facing Mississippi sportsbooks going forward and the reality already in place in other states is that, again, the Magnolia State is not going to be paying the pro sports leagues an integrity fee, which would be added to the other fees and taxes on sports betting handle. The Mississippi Gaming commission will handle final approval of the regulations that will be imposed on the state’s casino sportsbooks, and those regulations will become effective within 30 days of approval, putting Mississippi on track to start accepting bets on sports by the late summer of 2018.
No law or proposed set of regulations can, by their very nature, ever be considered perfect, and hoping for an ideal solution to come out of anything designed by committee, but it would only be fair to admit that there are very few possible problems with Mississippi sports betting law as written. We have already mentioned a few of its shortcomings – the ban of state-wide off-site mobile sports wagering being a big one, along with no provision as yet for legal in-state online sportsbooks – but those are actually fairly small complaints, all things considered. Mississippi’s situation is looking quite good, especially compared to other states and the teething pains they are likely to experience as they navigate through a complicated maze of regulatory concerns.
The Magnolia State at large, and Mississippi sportsbooks will not have to wait on lawmakers, lobbyists and regulators trying to satisfy commercial and tribal gaming interests and reconcile any conflict between them. Mississippi certainly won’t be held up as everyone else works out some kind of deal with the greedy sports leagues looking for a cut of the action for no extra work on their part.
Perhaps the only substantial drawback to the new Mississippi sports betting law is that it is quite conservative in its approach, which could limit or at least delay some growth in the industry. However, it should be understood that this careful, tactical method of getting good laws on the books and having sensible regulatory protocols in place with plenty of time for public input appears to be paying off for the Hospitality State. If you are a Mississippi sports bettor, you are quite fortunate indeed, as there are very few impediments standing in the way of the end goal: the launch of some profitable, successful Mississippi sportsbooks.