Mississippi Sportsbooks To Be Ready For Operation Within Two Months
Mississippi could become one of the next states after New Jersey to offer a full sports betting menu in the wake of the US Supreme Court’s momentous decision to overturn the lynchpin of federal anti-sports betting law.
Just days ago the SCOTUS justices handed down a majority decision in favor of striking down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), which had up to now limited sports betting in any meaningful sense to Nevada and three other states (Delaware, Montana and Oregon could only offer sports lotteries but largely did not). However, now that the Supreme Court returned a 6-3 ruling to declare the quarter century old PASPA unconstitutional according to the anti-commandeering doctrine contained in the 10th Amendment of the Bill of Rights, it is pretty much game on for all 50 states to do as they wish regarding legalization and regulation of sports betting.
And Mississippi, home to the thriving Biloxi casino industry and with a freshly minted sports betting law already on the books, stands poised to be one of the first states to start offering brick and mortar sportsbooks. All early indications point toward the Hospitality State getting its sports betting offerings up and running by the end of the summer at the latest, and possibly even with the next couple of months. Regulatory bodies are hard at work on crafting the necessary regs to govern sportsbooks and should be ready to rock n roll by the end of the summer, just in time to get out ahead of pro and collegiate football in the fall.
Individual regulators and representatives from the would be operators of the Magnolia State’s nascent sports betting industry have already started chiming in to that effect.
“Basically, we have been preparing regulations on our end to properly regulate this new form of gaming on our casino floors, and those should be in place soon,” said Mississippi Gaming Commission Deputy Director Jay McDaniel, speaking to reporters late Tuesday afternoon. “Likewise, I think many of our operators have been working on their end to put something in place as soon as it is feasible. Best guess is by the end of summer, we will see some sportsbooks in place in some of our casinos.”
Michael Bruffey, speaking as the general counsel to and vice president of Island View Casino Resort – one of Biloxi’s biggest names – said all 28 of the state’s casinos are basically “raring to go now,” being that PASPA has been laid to rest by the Supreme Court. Other operators and owners agree, particularly the owner of Biloxi’s Beau Rivage casino resort, that being the much vaunted MGM Resorts International. MGM’s top executives, Jim Murren and Bill Hornbuckle, have been on the ground in Mississippi quite recently and have spent the last several months ladling out the hype as to their company’s readiness once the looked for favorable decision on the PASPA question dropped.
Though MGM in particular is hearing cash registers going ka-ching already, the international gambling powerhouse did of course have to pay lip service to the major pro sports leagues – the same ones who were quite unceremoniously defeated in their battle to keep PASPA in place. The leagues, of which the MLB, NBA and US PGA Tour were united in their lobbying efforts, have for years cited their main concern as being “maintaining the integrity of the game” while simultaneously trying to muscle in on the decision-making process in statehouses around the country. Mississippi was one of the states that did not bend to the leagues’ demand for a so called “integrity fee” payout worth 1 percent of handle taken in by sportsbook operators, and MGM is probably plenty happy that lawmakers in the Magnolia State didn’t kowtow too much.
“MGM Resorts International applauds the court’s decision to allow states the opportunity to protect consumers and benefit the public by regulating and taxing sports betting,” the company said in a statement issued Monday. “We look forward to working with legislators and policymakers to achieve a regulatory outcome that benefits states and consumers alike while ensuring the integrity of sports.”
Mississippi’s success in getting sports betting legalization off the ground comes down to a few key factors. First, the state’s legislators did not make too much noise in the process, passing a fantasy sports bill – the Gaming Control Act - in March of 2017 that contained language that would allow the state to regulate sports betting in the event that PASPA was repealed. That decision put Mississippi ahead of states like Connecticut and Pennsylvania in the race to start bringing sportsbooks to their casinos, and it was done without all the fanfare of New Jersey – you don’t see the name of Mississippi’s governor on the Supreme Court case fighting the leagues over PASPA, do you?
The second factor working in the favor of Mississippi’s adoption of sports betting legislation was that the nominally fantasy sports-oriented act removed state level prohibitions against sports betting in the narrowest way possible. By limiting – at least initially – sports betting licenses to Biloxi’s casinos it effectively avoided the need to have additional fights over online sports betting, off-track horse racing betting locations and so on.
Now, whether or not Mississippi will eventually decide to roll out those options, especially mobile betting and sports betting websites, remains to be seen, though we have a good feeling that lawmakers in the Hospitality State will see the light sooner rather than later for Mississippi sports betting.
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