IN-DEPTH 17 September 2018
Legalised gambling: An introduction to Mississippi
With regulated sports betting now in full swing, Islam Soliman profiles Mississippi’s historical relationship with legalised betting.
By Islam Soliman
When you think about Mississippi and gambling, images of elegant riverboat casinos sailing along the coast immediately come to mind. For most of its recent history, gambling has not been commonplace. Nowadays, gamblers have a variety of different choices when it comes to fulfilling their gambling needs. They can enjoy legal gambling at land-based casinos, riverboat casinos, tribal
casinos, poker rooms and bingo halls.
Recently, Mississippi legislators opened the door to state-sanctioned sports betting after the Supreme Court repealed the terms of the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). Before we examine the state’s gambling market, we have to go back in time to see how this pastime has evolved.
HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI GAMBLING LAW
The history of Mississippi’s gambling and casinos can be traced back to the late 1700s. Back then, before Mississippi was officially proclaimed a state, racetracks existed and wagers were placed on races. Even though the racetrack was created by early French settlers, it’s clear to see the state’s early history involved gambling.
By the 19th century, riverboat gambling became one of the most popular forms of gaming within the state. At the time, over 100 different riverboats offered entertainment and gambling games. Through the 19th century, riverboat casinos continued to grow and become more popular, but there
were many stories regarding cheating.
Towards the end of the 1800s, the Civil War brought an end to all forms of gambling in the state. Significant change did not arrive for over a century, when the Mississippi Gaming Control Act of 1990 was passed. This act saw the boom of casinos and riverboat casinos in counties along the Mississippi River and on the coast.
LAND-BASED CASINOS IN MISSISSIPPI
Two years after Mississippi signed the Gaming Control Act, an agreement between the state government and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (MBCI) allowed for the existence of slots and table games in the state. There are now approximately 35 casinos operating in the state, although many of them were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Thirteen years later, the prospects for the casino industry in Mississippi continue to look optimistic after the repeal of PASPA in May. The casino industry in Mississippi looks vastly different today when compared with how it looked after Hurricane Katrina. Before the disaster, land-based casinos
were not permitted and all private casinos had to operate from a boat. The hurricane forced the government to quickly change the law and allow traditional land-based casinos to be built near the shores of Mississippi. All of these changes have been made to help revive the casino industry.
LEGALISED GAMBLING OPTIONS
Tunica, MS, is one the most popular gambling destinations in the south. Tunica is the third largest gaming venue in the US. Two of the most prominent gaming companies in the world – MGM Resorts and Caesars – have several operations in Mississippi. The state is a major gambling locale in the US and will continue to grow in the coming years.
IS ONLINE GAMBLING LEGAL?
When it comes to online betting, Mississippi only allows daily fantasy sports and games of skill. There are several offshore betting sites that offer their online services to residents in Mississippi, but the state law indicates that even if a gambling site is permitted in some jurisdictions, it is not legal within Mississippi.
Online sites may state that they are licensed in other countries, but it is illegal to place a bet with these businesses. However, there are some games that do not fall under Mississippi’s definition of gambling. One website that is permitted within the state is WorldWinner.com. The site offers a wide variety of skill-only games, such as scrabble, where people can play against other people for real money.
POKER IN MISSISSIPPI
Poker is one of the most popular forms of betting in the state. Most of the state’s casinos host a poker room and major tournament organisers such as the World Series of Poker usually attract a high number of players. However, it is considered an offence to partake in social poker games and the
state does not approve any sort of online poker for real money.
It’s difficult to predict whether online poker games will be permitted in the state, but it’s clear
to see that they are interested in introducing poker online. Even though four bills out of the last five years have been rejected, it seems only a matter of time before we see another serious push for online poker in the state.
A CHANCE FOR SPORTS BETTING
Sports betting is now legal at casinos in Mississippi, after the state moved fast to regulate following the PASPA repeal. Under these regulations, sports betting may only be offered to licensed casinos that have received approval from the Mississippi Gaming Commission. With these new rules approved by the Commission, wagers can only be placed by customers at the casino. The regulation
also states that customers can use their mobile phones to place bets, but only if they are physically present at the casino.
WHAT’S HAPPENED SO FAR?
The market officially opened on 1 August, when two casinos owned by MGM, the Beau RivageResort & Casino in Biloxi and Gold Strike Casino Resort in Tunica, held simultaneous events at 12pm PT.
Commenting on the new sports betting regulation in June, MBCI Chief Phyliss J. Anderson said: “These newly-approved regulations will allow the resort to remain on the forefront of the gambling market as well as provide additional revenue streams to the tribe.”
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Nowadays, there are many different gambling options, but at the same time the state is also very limited when it comes to offering residents online gambling and lottery betting. Despite early attempts at regulating online gambling and online poker games, Mississippi remains a traditional state. However, after the state’s legalisation of sports betting, it seems as though it is beginning to
embrace new reforms.