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New bill aims to bring mobile sports betting to Mississippi

Sports betting launched in Mississippi back in 2018, but a bill introduced at the capitol would bring mobile sports betting to the Magnolia State.

Currently, those wishing to place a wager on any sporting event must be on casino property. SB 2732, authored by Senator Philip Moran (R-District 46) would allow you to make bets from your phone or computer from anywhere in the state with a “percentage of operator profits flowing to the state.”

“Every day millions of Americans in 15 states have access to state-of-the-art mobile sportsbooks, allowing them to place bets on their favorite teams and leagues at home while fostering much-needed tax revenue. Unfortunately, Mississippi law does not authorize online sports betting, but this bill seeks to change that” Moran said. “Mississippi has been leaving money on the table by not authorizing online sports wagering, and it is time to modernize Mississippi’s gambling offerings and do what’s best for Mississippians.”

Several casinos currently offer sports gaming apps but are forced by state law to geofence those apps around their property. This bill would lift that restriction while also allowing Mississippians to use national sportsbooks such as DraftKings and FanDuel.

Moran, who serves as Vice-Chairman of the Senate Gaming Committee, noted the prevalence of illegal and offshore sports betting web sites across the country, which he says “offers neither state tax revenue nor consumer safeguards such as responsible gaming tools and secure payments.”

As for the bill’s chances of passing, it may face an uphill battle following comments made by Speaker of the House Philip Gunn in December.

“I have been in consultation with my chairman and those who are in charge with the responsibility of knowing this,” Gunn said, referring to the House Gaming Committee. “They are very cautious about that at this point. I think, right now, they are not in favor of it.”

However, Gunn’s comments contradict Mississippi Gaming and Hospitality Association Executive Director Larry Gregory, who spoke optimistically on the possibility of mobile sports gaming during a Senate Gaming Committee hearing.

“If you know Chairman Blount, he’s very methodical and wants to make sure everything is lined up before we take that giant step into offering this to our customers, but early on, I think the numbers are looking good. I think a lot of people would like to have it offered here, so I think we will see some version of legislation on mobile sports betting this year,” Gregory said.

During that same hearing, Moran quotes Godfrey as saying that Mississippi’s $370 million 2019 sports wagering handle was a “far cry” from New Jersey’s $850 million in online and retail sports wagering handle reported for September 2020 alone.

In addition to a convenience for the consumer, an online option could also greatly benefit Mississippi casinos that continue to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Three mobile sports gaming bills died during the 2020 session and another failed in 2019.

Tennessee, Mississippi’s neighbor to the North, launched mobile sports gaming in November 2020 and Louisiana plans to take up the issue during their upcoming legislative session. If passed, Mississippi would become the 16th state to offer mobile sports betting.

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