Sports betting in Mississippi was supposed to launch this past weekend. July 21 was the reported target date. The Magnolia State was penciled in as the third state outside of Nevada — joining Delaware and New Jersey — to offer regulated wagering.
Instead, Mississippi slipped on a 2007 Tony Romo jersey, muffing the snap on a potential game-winning field goal late in a Wild Card playoff game. Early last week, state regulators told Legal Sports Report that there was “a lot of work still going on” to roll out Mississippi sports betting.
Understandable. Lawmakers certainly want a sturdy foundation to prevent any faulty infrastructure. That said, there is definitely a lot of work still to be done.
Notably when it comes to mobile wagering, with which Mississippi has transformed to 2012 Mark Sanchez.
Still waiting on wagering
In a recent interview with Reuters that was published July 20, state gaming commissioner Allen Godfrey said the casinos that would offer sports betting are “still carving out space in their businesses to build sports bars and working to meet other state requirements before they can be approved.”
“Right now, the ones wanting to get started are still in the renovation phase,” Godfrey said. He noted that it could be another two weeks before properties are approved to accept wagers.
Of the 28 riverboat and land-based casinos in Mississippi, 13 have made bids to house sportsbooks. It is expected that all 28 will eventually be approved. Yet there is one tidbit that, like the “still lives with parents” info in the state’s Tinder profile, was buried in the story. It concerns online sports betting regulations, which have been publicized already, but not focused on enough.
Just a town in Alabama
Mobile, Alabama, is just a short drive away from the southeastern border of Mississippi, which apparently wants to keep it that way. At least, outside of casino grounds.
Just over a dozen properties have applied to have sports betting operations on site. Of those, the equivalent of Rickie Fowler’s hope to ever win a major golf championship have applied to have mobile betting: none.
From regulations that were proposed in May:
(b) A book shall accept wagers only on its licensed premises, and only at betting stations or kiosks/terminals approved by the Executive Director or through an on-site computerized Wagering system that has been approved by the Executive Director.
(c) For the purposes of this provision, the approved facility shall include any area located within the property boundaries of the casino hotel facility that the Executive Director determines is legal for gaming. This shall not include parking garages or parking areas of a casino hotel facility.
(d) The Executive Director shall ascertain and ensure, pursuant to rules and regulations issued by the commission to implement mobile gaming pursuant to this provision, that mobile gaming shall not extend outside of the property boundaries of the casino hotel facility authorized for gaming.
But that’s not the story. Godfrey offered an aside to the future of mobile wagering, treating that side of the industry like the beer tent at a concert: Keep it inside.
Godfrey told Reuters that once casinos do submit bids to have online sports betting, it will be restricted to casino grounds.
And there’s your butt fumble. React.
Consider what Mississippi could cash in on. Including states that are nearing the finalization of regulated wagering, West Virginia is the closest, roughly 500 miles away.
The entire South is at Mississippi’s disposal, basically the heart of college football country. Limiting mobile sports betting to casino grounds would theoretically drive up visitation. But the cap for sports betting revenue is lowered.
The Mississippi Gaming Association estimates the casino industry results in $352 million in state and local taxes each year. Yeah, initial windfall from betting is not expected to be Powerball-worthy — anywhere, really.
Still, by restricting the online presence throughout the state to just a select few properties inhibits sports betting revenue even further. That would be like running a pizza delivery service, but only offering delivery within the confines of your parking lot.
Well done, Mississippi.