If home games are illegal under Mississippi law, it’s a good bet that online poker is too. Currently, however, there are no statutes that specifically address the issue. Bills were proposed in the Mississippi state legislature to legalize and regulate online poker in both 2012 and 2013. Each time the bills died a quick death within weeks of being introduced.
In the absence of a statute that is directly on point, §97-33-1 would seem to apply. It provides for a fine of up to $500 and up to 90 days in prison “if any person shall… play at any game… for money… or shall wager or bet… upon any game…”. As with all internet transactions, however, there would be a jurisdictional question as to whether the bets and play happened in the state of Mississippi or in the jurisdiction in which the online gambling servers were located.
Interestingly, the MGC FAQ relating to the legality of internet gambling does not cite a specific statute in coming to the conclusion that internet gambling is illegal under Mississippi law.
Mississippi’s legislature has commissioned an online gambling study that has been introduced (the findings have not been revealed at this time). The study is looking at comprehensive online gambling expansion including sportsbetting.
In early 2015 Representative Bobby Moak introduced an online gambling bill for the fourth consecutive year, the bill failed to make it out of committee and was officially scrapped in early February.
Live poker is alive and well in Mississippi, thanks in no small part to the state’s extensive network of fully regulated brick-and-mortar casinos. 30 casinos are licensed in the state, divided into three geographic regions: northern (including Tunica), central , and coastal (including Biloxi). Almost all of the northern casinos offer poker, while about half of the coastal casinos do. In the central region, only Ameristar and Harlow’s have poker rooms.
In addition to the state-regulated casinos, the Pearl River Resort casino, run by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians pursuant to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, boasts a poker room.
Surprisingly, home poker games are probably illegal in Mississippi. The State Gambling Statute, §97-33-1 of the Mississippi Code, criminalizes just about every form of gambling except riverboat gambling under the auspices of the Mississippi Gaming Commission and gambling on dog fighting. The MGC has reinforced this interpretation of the statute in one of its FAQs by claiming that it is not legal to play poker anywhere but in a casino.