Will Sports Betting Become Legal in Mississippi?

While the appeal of the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision against New Jersey’s challenge to the Professional and Amateur Sports Act of 1992 (“PASPA”) winds its way through the U.S. Supreme Court, Mississippi has taken some important steps on the road to legal sports wagering in the state.

In the 2017 Mississippi Legislative Session, the state adopted a Daily Fantasy Sports bill, House Bill 967, authorizing DFS play within the state. This bill became effective on July 1, 2017.

However, the DFS bill also amended a few provisions of the Mississippi Gaming Control Act (“MGCA”), namely Miss. Code Ann. Sections 75-76-5 (gg) and 75-76-33(3). Each of these amendments is key to the future ability to make legal sports wagers at casinos in Mississippi.

The first amendment to the MGCA changed the definition of a “sports pool” to include wagers on “collegiate or professional sporting events or athletic events”. The second amendment to the MGCA clarified some challenging language that many believed would have prevented sports wagering at Mississippi casinos and mandated that such betting may take place only on “a licensed vessel or cruise vessel”.

With these amendments in place, and if the U.S. Supreme Court declares PASPA unconstitutional, Mississippi casino visitors may in the future be able to place legal bets on sporting and athletic events.

Although the Mississippi gaming statutes have been modified to permit sports betting, the Mississippi Gaming Commission has no regulations authorizing sports books or providing specific guidance to licensees on the operation of sports books. However, the MGC could look to the Nevada sports book regulations for guidance on rules for Mississippi, and under rulemaking authority under the Mississippi administrative procedures laws could quickly adopt such regulations for sports books in this state.

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