Mississippi’s Mobile-Online Sports Betting Task Force met last week for the first time to discuss the possibility of introducing online sports betting legislation in 2024. However, Mississippi online casinos remain off the table for now.
The 13-member task force gathered to discuss what legal online sports betting in Mississippi could look like. The group includes state lawmakers, various appointees, and state Gaming Commission (MGC) director Jay McDaniel,
Despite being an early adopter of retail sports betting, the Magnolia State is taking its time with online wagering. At least three previous online sports betting bills failed before the most recent created the task force.
As initially intended, the bill that created the task force would have legalized online sports betting in the state. However, Mississippi’s House Committee on Appropriations changed HB 606 to authorize the task force instead.
Task Force Weighs Pros and Cons of Mississippi OSB
Currently, sports betting in Mississippi is limited to in-person sportsbooks and online apps geofenced to retail casinos.
However, during Tuesday’s meeting, House Rep. Casey Eure, champion of HB 606 during the 2023 session, confirmed plans to introduce new online sports betting legislation in 2024.
In the meantime, the task force is evaluating Mississippi’s potential online sports betting market. Members are investigating the possible consequences—positive and negative—that online sports betting could have for the state.
Topics considered in the first meeting covered advertising rules, tax rates, and where tax dollars would go. The task force also heard testimony from witnesses on both sides of the issue, including Penn Entertainment, DraftKings, and state casino operators.
On one side, Kevin Cochran, DraftKings’ director of legal and government affairs, shared insight on how operators do business in other markets. Conversely, Riverwalk Casino-Hotel general manager Cathy Beeding raised concerns about the potential cannibalization of retail casino revenues.
However, rather than cannibalize retail casino revenues, Penn’s Jason Tosches suggested online sports betting would add to profits overall.
Tosches, Penn’s director of public affairs and government relations, said:
We believe any notion that online sports betting would somehow negatively impact land-based casinos, lead to property closures or damage the state’s existing regulatory framework is simply false.
New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Indiana, and Iowa all had greater slot and table game revenue last year than in 2019, and these are among the first movers that authorized online sports betting between three and five years ago.
Insiders Add to the Mississippi Conversation
Also presenting at the meeting was John Pappas, senior vice president of government and public affairs at GeoComply. Pappas shared data captured during the start of the football season that logged over 1.7 million instances of folks attempting to bet on sportsbooks in Louisiana and Tennessee.
Between August 27 and October 22, GeoComply captured 1.72 million geolocation checks from 64,000 Mississippi accounts. Of those, almost 68% attempted to log into Tennessee sportsbooks, while the remainder targeted Louisiana operators.
In total, GeoComply found a 37% year-over-year increase in online accounts created in Mississippi during the month after the 2023 NFL kickoff.
During her presentation, Boyd Gaming’s director of governmental affairs, Ashley Menou Center, petitioned against in-person registration and advocated for two skins for each retail operator.
Although Boyd doesn’t operate sports betting directly, it benefits from market access deals for properties in states with online sports betting. Additionally, Boyd has a small stake in Fan Duel, a partner in three states.
If Mississippi does choose a two-skin model, the state could see as many as 60 online sportsbooks tethered to its retail casino properties.
More choice, argued Center, is better for the market:
Bringing in more brands into the market makes it more robust and competitive. The more skin opportunities, that’s one thing that creates balance among operators.
Still, the potential negatives created a pause for some legislators, like Sen. Mike Thomas, whose “primary concern” is ensuring nothing jeopardizes Mississippi’s “destination gaming product.”
Online Casinos Get Hard No
Discussions of online casino expansion tend to focus on states that already have retail casinos and online sports betting. The proposed changes to Mississippi’s sports betting laws would therefore make it part of the conversation in future years.
Unfortunately, for anyone wondering about the immediate possibility of Mississippi online casinos, speakers nearly unanimously agreed that legislation needs to wait.
Tosches, speaking on behalf of Penn, summarized the general sentiment.
While Penn supports online casinos as much as online sportsbooks, he said, it’s not yet the right time for that conversation in Mississippi.
I want to be clear that we are not advocating for iCasino to be put in this online sports betting legislation. I think we have broad alignment on that across maybe all or a significant majority of Mississippi’s casinos. I don’t necessarily think that would be helpful to getting online sports betting.
Even with online casinos off the table, there are other possible speedbumps along the path to online sports betting in Mississippi. Lawmakers have even questioned whether authorizing the expansion will require a county-by-county voter referendum.
Regardless, Rep. Eure said he will introduce his bill next year and hopes to begin discussing the content at the task force’s Nov.13 meeting.
However, whether it will pass, he said, is far from certain.
I’ve already publicly said that I will have a bill that I will introduce. Now, I can’t sit here and tell you for sure that it’s gonna pass the House, and I’ll be able to send it to the Senate, but I wanted everybody to know where I stood from day one.
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