Should the United States Supreme Court allow the legalization of sports betting nationwide, the state of Mississippi will have its doors open – possibly as soon as the start of the 2018 football season. At least that’s the plan for Mississippi sports betting, according the head of the state gaming commission, Allen Godfrey.

In a recent story in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Godfrey promised sports betting “within 45 to 60 days [of a decision], before football season.” And if you’re wondering how Mississippi can pull that off without passing any legislation during the 2018 session, the answer is simple: sports betting is already legal in Mississippi.

Though the state has done just about nothing with regard to sports betting during the current legislative session, they made it legal, albeit under the radar, in early 2017. The Mississippi legislature passed HB 967 in March of last year. Though the bill focused on fantasy sports, it modified the Gaming Control Act. The end result is that the bill legalizes sports gambling in Mississippi.

Mississippi Will Have a Leg Up When it Comes to Sports Betting. Legislation in Louisiana all But Dead, and Other Border States Aren’t Interested.

Because of that, Mississippi is waiting – and chomping at the bit to get sports betting into its more than 30 commercial and tribal casinos, many of which dot the Gulf of Mexico and are easy driving distance from the biggest city in the region – New Orleans.

“It will be just another type of game offered in a legal casino operation,” Godfrey told the Clarion-Ledger.

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New Jersey’s case against the NCAA and major pro sports leagues, Murphy v NCAA, may result in the 1992 federal ban on sports wagering outside Nevada — known as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act — getting lifted. So far this year, only West Virginia has made sports betting legal. Pennsylvania passed a law in favor of sports betting in 2017. Delaware and Oregon, two states whose then-existing sports wagering offerings were “grandfathered’ in under PASPA, are in a similar place as Mississippi, to the extent they may not need additional legislation to offer licenses for full-fledged sports betting.

If Mississippi indeed does open the sports betting doors sooner than later, it will have a big leg up in the Southeast. The only nearby state even discussing sports betting is Louisiana, and the latest bill there didn’t get out of the Finance Committee. There has been little to no sports betting conversation in Mississippi’s other border states – Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee.

“Florida’s not talking about it. Tennessee’s not talking about it. Nor is Arkansas or Georgia,” Godfrey said. “Louisiana has about 35 days left in its legislative session, and that topic is not getting much traction. No one within our drive-in market is having that conversation.”

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Jill Dorson

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