Once a Trailblazer, Mississippi Gaming in Danger of Falling Behind Neighbors

Once a Trailblazer, Mississippi Gaming in Danger of Falling Behind Neighbors
By Shelby Dermer
Fact Checked by Michael Peters

Mississippi, once considered an early trailblazer in the country’s acceptance into legal, nationwide sports betting, is in danger of becoming a dinosaur. 

Mississippi became one of the first states to legalize sports betting, opening its first retail sportsbook in August 2018, just three months after the Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), giving way for sports wagering to expand outside of Nevada. 

Four years later, Mississippi sports betting is now behind the times, and its regional monopoly is dwindling. 

The good: All of the state’s 20-plus land-and water-based casinos, both commercial and tribal, operate with a retail sportsbook, where patrons can place in-person bets. 

The bad: Only two Mississippi casinos — the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino in Biloxi and the Gold Strike Casino Resort in Tunica — offer mobile sports betting. Furthermore, bettors can only place online wagers using the mobile app of the sportsbook for the respective casino. 

The BetMGM mobile app is the only mobile sports betting app operating in the state. It is geofenced to the Beau Rivage and Gold Strike, meaning patrons cannot make mobile wagers from beyond the hotel, resort and casino grounds. 

The ugly: Five bills to legalize online sports betting died in committee in February without making it to a vote, due to push back from local casino owners.

Mississippi Losing Revenue to Neighboring States

At first, Tunica was a prime destination for bettors to make the trip from Memphis, Tennessee, just 40 miles away. 

The Biloxi area, 90 miles east of New Orleans, was a hot spot for Louisiana bettors. 

In the four years since Mississippi opening its first sportsbook, other states have caught up and surpassed Mississippi in the pecking order of options for the sports bettor. 

Louisiana launched mobile sports betting in January. Two months later, Arkansas joined the fold with its first mobile sportsbook going live. Tennessee launched its all-mobile mobile sports betting program in November 2020, and Mississippi quickly saw its impact. 

“The Tunica market took an immediate hit of 25% of their local market,” MGM Resorts Southeast Group Vice President and Legal Counsel Anthony DelVescovo told WLOX news in November. “With Louisiana coming online we can expect the same declines in the river counties, the Gulf Coast counties.” 

Pushback on bills aimed to bring statewide mobile sports betting came from local casino owners. 

A key point of contention, according to WLOX, is how legislation is planning to divide the sales tax for each mobile bet placed. Which would benefit, the county where the bet was made or the community where the casino operates? 

Mississippi Rep. Casey Eure’s HB 997 was aimed to bring legal mobile sports betting while protecting the state’s brick-and-mortar options by calling for in-person registration for online accounts, which needed to be renewed in person every 12 months. 

Another bill, HB 184 from Rep. Cedric Burnett, would have given any licensed casino the option to launch a mobile sportsbook. Sen. Phillip Moran’s SB 2462 wanted to permit mobile bets on sports and esports. 

With online sportsbooks surrounding Mississippi from nearly every side, the state could feel the impact of these dead bills in revenue declines this year.

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Contributors

Shelby Dermer is a report & journalist for BetMississippi.com. Shelby has been a sports reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer for the last five years and now lends his expertise to the Mississippi sports betting market. He grew up in Waynesville, Ohio, and graduated from Ohio University.

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