Hoping to expand sports betting in Mississippi, two state senators have introduced bills that would permit mobile wagering.
Sens. Philip Moran (R) and Scott Delano (R) have introduced measures to allow people within the state to use mobile devices in betting on sporting events, according to WXXV-TV.
Moran noted that Mississippi’s neighbor to the north, Tennessee, legalized mobile sports betting in November and has raised millions in tax revenue.
Tennessee collected $5.4 million in privilege taxes in the first two months of its online-only sports betting program, the Associated Press reported. In November and December, online bettors placed $312.3 million in sports wagers in the Volunteer State.
In Mississippi, sports wagering is permitted inside casinos, but not on mobile devices such as smartphones. Mississippi is home to 26 commercial casinos. Of these, 12 are along the Gulf Coast. Eight are in the coastal town of Biloxi. Moran lives in Kiln, near the Gulf Coast. Delano is from Biloxi.
In December, Mississippi collected $7.8 million in taxes on $55.3 million in sports bets.
‘Help With Schools’
Moran, sponsor of Senate Bill 2732, said casinos can coordinate with companies that provide the apps to roll out the program.
The public can then enjoy the ability to bet five dollars on your favorite team if you so choose,” he told WXXV-TV.
Delano’s bill is SB2396. Legislation would have to be approved in both chambers at the Capitol in Jackson before going to the governor.
Gambling opponents often express concern that out-of-control wagering can shatter families, sending them into a downward economic spiral. Proponents usually point to the tax revenue that otherwise would go out of state to places where gambling is legal.
Ben Koff, vice president of the Scarlet Pearl Casino Resort, told the television station that Mississippi could use the tax money from mobile sports betting “to help with schools and road works and all these other projects that need to get done.” The Scarlet Pearl is in D’Iberville, near Biloxi.
Southern States Eye Sports Wagering
Other Southern states are considering legislation allowing sports betting, either online or in-person. These include Texas, Georgia, and Florida. In Alabama, Gov. Kay Ivey’s Study Group on Gambling Policy reported late last year that sports betting could bring in $10 million in tax revenue each year.
In Louisiana, voters in 55 of the state’s 64 parishes during the November election approved sports betting within the borders of their parish. Voters in parishes that are home to the larger cities, such as New Orleans and Baton Rouge, overwhelmingly supported the ballot measure.
The Louisiana Legislature will have to decide whether to restrict sport wagering to in-person bets at sportsbooks inside a casino, or also allow mobile sports betting. The Legislature next meets at the Capitol in Baton Rouge in April. With this and other issues still unresolved, sports betting is not expected to be in operation in the Bayou State until 2022.
Louisiana has 13 riverboat casinos, a land-based casino in New Orleans, and four racinos.
Koff expressed concern that other states might beat Mississippi in allowing mobile sports betting. Louisiana shares its eastern border with Mississippi.
“Pretty soon we’re going to be left in the dark, and we can’t be the one left in the dark and lose our customers and our guests choosing to go elsewhere with their casino entertainment dollars,” Koff said.
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