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.

It’s All in the Numbers: Chances of a Lottery in Mississippi?

For many years, the State of Mississippi had a constitutional prohibition on lotteries. Sec. 98 of the Mississippi Constitution (adopted in 1890) stated as follows:

No lottery shall ever be allowed, or be advertised by newspapers, or otherwise, or its tickets be sold in this State; and the legislature shall provide by law for the enforcement of this provision; nor shall any lottery heretofore authorized be permitted to be drawn or its tickets sold.

Despite the constitutional prohibition on lotteries, the Mississippi Legislature went to great pains to distinguish a “lottery” from “gaming” under the Mississippi Gaming Control Act. Miss. Code Section 75-76-3, adopted in 1990, provides:

The Legislature recognizes that Section 98 of the Mississippi Constitution of 1890 prohibits the conducting of any lottery in this state and that, while not defining the term “lottery,” Section 98 clearly contemplates, as indicated by specific language contained therein, that a lottery involves the sale of tickets and a drawing in order to determine the winner. The Legislature also recognizes that Section 98 of the Mississippi Constitution of 1890 directs the Legislature to provide by law for the enforcement of its provisions. Therefore, in carrying out its duties under the Constitution and effectuating the intent of Section 98, the Legislature hereby finds that a lottery, as prohibited by the Constitution, does not include all forms of gambling….

The 1990 gaming control statute further defined a “lottery” as any activity in which: Continue Reading