Mississippi Lawmaker Introduces Online Sports Betting Bill

Kwatrivous Johnson #69 and Will Rogers #2 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Justin Ford/Getty Images/AFP

Representative Cedric Burnett has filed a bill that seeks to legalize online sports betting in Mississippi. 

The Magnolia State was among the first to permit sports betting after the federal ban, PASPA, was overturned in 2018. However, it only allows in-person sports wagering at 26 land-based casinos spread across the state. 

Its industry has therefore remained modest. For example, when New Jersey sportsbooks handled a record $1.3 billion in October 2021, Mississippi’s total handle was just $83.5 million worth of wagers. 

Burnett, a Democrat lawmaker representing District 9, introduced similar bills in 2019 and 2020, but they crashed and burned after failing to gain enough support from his legislative colleagues. However, Burnett might finally succeed this time around, as there could be a renewed sense of urgency in Mississippi. 

LA Developments Pile the Pressure on Mississippi Lawmakers 

Right now, just one of Mississippi’s neighbors – Tennessee, to the north – has a legal online sports wagering industry. Yet that will all change soon, as Louisiana gears up to welcome online sportsbooks in the next few weeks. 

Louisiana, which shares a long border with Mississippi, introduced retail sports betting towards the end of 2021. Online sportsbooks are now preparing to launch too

There is no official launch date, but lawmakers hope they will be up and running in time for the Super Bowl. Operators such as DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, and Caesars are already offering pre-registration bonuses for online sports bettors in the state. 

Mississippi residents will also be able to cross over the border and place legal sports wagers on their mobile devices. A similar situation has developed in New Jersey, which receives a steady stream of New Yorkers each week, and in various other states across the country. 

Lawmakers then grow frustrated with residents leaving their state and taking their money elsewhere, bolstering the coffers of their neighbors, so they tend to cave in and legalize online sports betting. This domino effect has been seen nationwide over the past few years. For example, New York is also gearing up to launch legal online sports betting this month, after previously offering just retail sports wagering. 

Developments in Louisiana could jolt Mississippi lawmakers into action. 

Burnett’s Bill Would Yield an Open Market 

Burnett’s bill would allow all of the state’s 26 commercial casinos to launch an online sportsbook. It is unlikely that we would see 26 different brands in Mississippi, but it would yield an open, competitive industry. 

Burnett, who is a member of the Mississippi Gaming Committee, would like to see sports betting revenue taxed on a sliding scale. Any revenue under $50,000 would be taxed at 4%. That would increase to 6% on revenue between $50,000 and $134,000, and 8% on any revenue above $134,000. By contrast, Pennsylvania charges a 36% revenue tax, and New York is planning to charge 51%. 

Burnett’s bill also seeks to legalize betting on esports. 

Retail Sportsbooks Thrive in Louisiana 

Retail sports betting in Louisiana made a promising start. Eight casinos had operational land-based sportsbooks in October, and they handled a combined $27.6 million in sports wagers during the month. 

They earned $5.7 million in revenue from that total. That was largely down to parlays, which accounted for $3.7 million, underscoring just how difficult it is to place a successful parlay. 

Figures from the Louisiana State Police Gaming Enforcement do not break the revenue by operator. They do show that football accounted for $1,573,527 in October. Sportsbooks earned $369,930 on basketball, $21,203 on soccer, and $32,885 on other sports, while they incurred a loss of $3,585 on baseball.