Mississippi Becomes Third State to Introduce iGaming Legislation in 2015

mississippi sealWith the state legislature now back in session, Mississippi State Representative Bobby Moak (D-Bogue Chitto) wasted no time in getting back to work on what has become his pet project: Online gambling.

Moak reintroduced his bill, now called The Mississippi Lawful Internet Gaming Act Of 2015, which would legalize online gambling in the state.

Representative Moak is no stranger to online gambling, having introduced an online gambling bill four years running, dating back to 2012. Thus far, none of Representative Moak’s iGaming bills have made it out of committee.

Moak’s efforts have borne a little fruit

They’ve stalled in the legislature, but Representative Moak’s efforts did lead to the creation of an eight member task force to study online gambling. The task force was created by Mississippi House Gaming Committee Chairman Richard Bennett, who pegged Mississippi Gaming Commission executive director Allen Godfrey as the chairman of the group.

The reintroduction of Moak’s bill may intimate the results of the task force’s study will soon be handed over to the legislature.

As Chris Krafcik reported on Twitter the crossover deadline (for the bill to clear the house and be sent to the Senate) would be February 23rd, and it’s unlikely the bill will get much support without the results of the task force study on the record – the task force was supposed to report back by the end of 2014, but thus far there has been no word on when the study will be introduced to the legislature.

Mississippi’s gaming successes

Mississippi is one of gaming’s success stories, as the expansion of land-based gaming in the early 1990’s helped solve the state’s longstanding unemployment issues and curb their budget deficits. This expansion was predicated on the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act that allowed Indian tribes to offer gaming, and the 1990 Mississippi Gaming Control Act which allowed riverboat casinos.

Gaming also acted as a revitalization program in the mid-2000’s. Following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast, lawmakers in Mississippi further expanded gaming in 2005, allowing casinos to be built on land, as long as they were no more than 800 feet from the waterfront. Gaming helped revitalize this area, and Mississippians are well aware of the value the industry can bring to the community.

Online gambling still unlikely

However, online gambling will still be a very hard sell in Mississippi, where the argument would be one of revenue and bolstering the state’s declining gaming industry. The disappointing revenue generated in New Jersey (along with Delaware and Nevada) will make convincing lawmakers in the deep south that gaming expansion is the answer to their budgetary problems.

Had New Jersey lived up to reasonable expectations Mississippi would be a good candidate for expansion, but as it stands, iGaming is likely several years off in the state.

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