Ed Note: This article has been updated to include comment Rep. Casey Eure provided to The Sun Herald.
Mississippi legislators have wasted no time proposing mobile sports betting bills during the 2022 legislative session, with Rep. Cedric Burnett first introducing a bill on Jan. 4 aimed at legalizing mobile sports betting within the state.
Since Burnett proposed his bill, several others have been introduced in the Mississippi House and Senate geared toward legalizing mobile betting. It’s not the first time such legislation has been on the agenda in the state, but various bills have failed in each of the previous three years.
It seems like Mississippians will have to wait even longer for legalized online sports betting, according to a report from The Sun Herald.
“I think we’ve hit a roadblock,” Rep. Casey Eure told The Sun Herald. Eure added that he doesn’t expect sports betting legislation to come out of committee during this legislative session with the deadline for the bills to come out of committee set for Feb. 1.
Five sports betting bills introduced in 2022
Burnett’s bill, HB 184, was proposed on Jan. 4 and referred to the House Gaming Committee. As far as Burnett is concerned, Mississippi is long overdue to legalize mobile sports wagering.
“The thought is, it’s a convenience. It’s just that simple,” Burnett said.
Mississippi has casinos that allow legal retail sports betting. Some of these properties have apps, allowing users to bet on their phones — provided they’re physically on the casino’s property. When it comes to legalizing mobile wagering, some Mississippi stakeholders want to require sportsbook operators to partner with existing casinos in the state.
Burnett understands that sentiment, and says he’s heard mostly positives about his bill, although smaller Mississippi casinos have reached out with concerns about the legislation. Specifically, some worry that national sportsbook operators may prefer to partner with Mississippi’s larger casinos.
“I don’t think mobile sports betting will take anything from the casino revenue,” Burnett said.
In addition to Burnett’s bill, Eure and Rep. Kevin Felsher proposed HB 997 on Jan. 17. That legislation was also referred to the House Gaming Committee, of which Eure is the Chairman. HB 1165, introduced by Rep. Jay McKnight, was also introduced on Jan. 17 and referred to the House Gaming Committee.
In the Senate, Philip Moran introduced SB 2462 on Jan. 17 and it was referred to the Senate Gaming Committee on that same day. SB 2652, introduced by Scott DeLano, wants to legalize online wagering “under certain conditions,” and the bill was introduced on Jan. 17 and assigned to the Senate Gaming Committee.
Me waiting to see if Mississippi going to pass the Mobile Betting legislation. pic.twitter.com/LzquBpjNpO
— Ej MSED (@Ed_NoEddy) January 21, 2022
None of the five bills advanced beyond the initial introduction phase, however. Burnett was hopeful his bill, which he considers common sense, would pass.
“I don’t gamble a lot. It’s inconvenient for me to go to the casino to actually make the sports bet, but to be honest with you, I will bet if I had the opportunity to on my cellphone,” Burnett said. “I have it with me all the time. It just makes sense.”
Horse racing tied in?
Several of the sports betting bills also include language related to legalizing “racebooks” in addition to mobile sportsbooks. HB 1165 doesn’t include language specifically addressing racebooks, but the others include specific mention of racebooks as well as sportsbooks, as it seems legalizing mobile betting on horse racing is also a priority for some legislators.
SB 2462, introduced by Sen. Moran, includes language that defines a “digital platform” as “the operation of a sports pool or race book over the internet, including on websites and mobile devices, by the holder of a gaming license or by an operator on behalf of the holder of a gaming license.” Other bills include similar wording.
Additionally, Rep. Kenneth Walker filed HB 588, which would establish the Mississippi Horse Racing Commission. The bill was referred to the House Gaming Committee on Jan. 13.
NEW: A bill has been introduced in the Mississippi Legislature to legalize horse racing. HB 588, entitled the Horse Racing Act of 2022, would create the Mississippi State Racing Commission and authorize live horse racing. https://t.co/lVYPGFYeq9
— Daniel Wallach (@WALLACHLEGAL) January 14, 2022
If passed, Walker’s bill would legalize horse racing in Mississippi. The Magnolia State’s legislative session for 2022 closes on April 3.
Nearby states make mobile moves
As Mississippi’s lawmakers discuss mobile betting, several of the state’s neighbors are enjoying the tax revenue that comes from the practice. Tennessee launched mobile betting on Nov. 1, 2020, and the state received nearly $40 million in tax revenue in 2021 from mobile betting.
Louisiana launched mobile sports betting in late January, adding to its sports betting options. Several major sportsbook operators — including BetMGM, Caesars, DraftKings, and FanDuel — have launched in the Bayou State.
Even Arkansas is making moves toward launching mobile betting. There was a possibility Arkansas would launch its mobile betting offerings before the Super Bowl, but further discussion of the rules led to a delay.
With several of its neighboring states launching mobile betting, it’s becoming increasingly easy for Mississippi residents to travel across state lines to place legal mobile sports wagers. That pressure — and loss of potential tax revenue — could lead legislators to eventually act on sports betting legislation.