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Efforts to legalize mobile sports betting take turn in Mississippi

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The process of legalizing mobile sports betting in Mississippi has taken a turn for the second year in a row.

While the Senate voted on Tuesday to pass House Bill 774, which establishes the Mississippi Mobile Sports Wagering Act, a strike-all amendment was inserted, gutting the text and reverting the legislation back to current state law.

“The amendment that came out of committee makes no changes to the current law. It does not express the Senate’s position one way or another,” Democratic Sen. David Blount of Jackson said. “It does express our position to continue to discuss this and hear from people across the state about this issue. It simply keeps the issue alive.”

Now the bill heads back to the House of Representatives for concurrence and gaming committee members in both chambers are likely to work to iron out a concrete bill in conference. Sound familiar?

Just one year ago, lawmakers in the House passed a bill that would outright allow those 21 and older to bet on sporting events legally from their mobile devices. That legislation was later amended and ultimately resulted in the creation of a study committee to further examine mobile sports betting and the effects it would have on Mississippi.

The committee released a report of its comprehensive analysis of the matter, which found that Mississippi brought in less revenue than most of the 35 other states that offer mobile sports betting. Despite the cries from some in the casino industry that allowing people to place wagers outside of their premises would harm the state, Gaming Commissioner Jay McDaniel told SuperTalk Mississippi News otherwise.

“We would definitely see an increase in revenue just because it would reach all corners of the state,” McDaniel said in February. “I believe we would capture some from a state like Alabama that doesn’t have it right now legally.”

Circling back to the current legislative session, the House initially passed HB 774 in early February. The legislation sat idly in the Senate for two months before it saw any real action.

Under the original text, the Mississippi Mobile Sports Wagering Act would allow residents 21 and up to place legal wagers on sporting events from mobile devices outside the four walls of the state’s 26 brick-and-mortar casinos.

To protect the casinos, the legislature instilled a stipulation in the bill that requires sports betting platforms such as DraftKings, FanDuel, and BetMGM to partner with a Mississippi-based casino to run their operations. The casinos are not allowed to partner with multiple mobile sports betting vendors but platforms will be able to partner with numerous casinos.

Casinos would also have the opportunity to link their rewards programs to a user’s mobile sports betting account and offer certain prizes, such as free rooms or discounted meals, to lure a patron into their facilities. This would be the ultimate win-win for both users and casinos.

Nonetheless, the legislation sits in limbo and the likelihood of legalizing mobile sports betting in Mississippi this year is unknown.

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