Mississippi Legislature to Study Online Gambling Measures


Mississippi’s Gambling Industry Contributes a High Percentage to State Revenues

Mississippi’s political leaders are considering a bill that would legalize intrastate online gambling. Allen Godfrey, Executive Direcor of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, says he wants to study how the licensing and regulation have worked in other U.S. states before advocating such laws in Mississippi.

Allen Godfrey Wants an Unbiased Study

Godfrey says he wants to study the software used by other states to see if accuracy claims are true. In states like New Jersey and Nevada, gaming devices like computers and smartphones download geolocating software which signals a player’s global positioning. If Mississippi were to institute online gambling laws, a gambler is inside the state would need to be inside the state’s borders to play legally (or at all). If the geolocater were outside the state lines, they would not be able to log onto the licensed websites.

Even more important to Allen Godfrey is the ability of residents in nearby states to gamble at local online casinos and poker sites. For instance, Memphis, Tennessee and Mobile, Alabama are near the borders of Mississippi. If the geolocator technology did not work properly, people in those cities might be able to get online and gamble for real money on those sites.

Accuracy of Geolocation Technology Is Key

The accuracy of the technology is pivotal to the future of legal online gambling in the United States. At the moment, proponents in the U.S. Congress of a federal bill to outlaw all online gambling in the United States claim they want “Restoration of the Wire Act” because gambling in Nevada and New Jersey is invasive to the laws of South Carolina and other states which do not want such gambling. If the geolocators work, it knocks a card out of the hands of Lindsey Graham, Sheldon Adelson, and their political allies. People in South Carolina simply could not log onto those websites.

Because it is such an important fact to learn, Allen Godfrey says he will make himself director of the task force to explore data collection of online casino gambling, poker betting, and even sports gambling across the USA. State Representative Richard Bennett from Long Beach, who is chairman of the House Gaming Committee, asked Godfrey to take on the task. Bennett wants an unbiased report on the task force’s findings.

Plenty of Information Sources

Accurate information should be forthcoming. In New Jersey, geolocator technology became an issue, because the software did not work properly in the first months after online casino was made legal in November 2013. In that case, people on the borders of New Jersey could not log onto the sites to register an account. Since Jersey population centers like Camden is so near Philadelphia and Newark and Jersey City are so near New York City, it became a major issue in limiting signups. Camden was worst hit, but regulators and gaming technology purveyors eventually found solutions for demarkating the Delaware River on the technology. Now the system works, at least according to the officials and local gamblers. New Jersey’s media made an issue of the fault tech, so a state-level task force should be able to collect the information needed to learn if the problem is fixed.

Online Gambling in Mississippi

If Mississippi lawmakers passed a law allowing gambling in the state, it could be an important source of revenue. No U.S. state outside Nevada collects a bigger percentage of its tax revenues from gambling than Mississippi. When Hurricane Katrina damaged Gulf Coast casinos in 2005, those casinos closed for months for repairs and the state treasury was faced with a fiscal disaster, too. If Internet poker and table games were made legal, it would allow for an additional revenue source for the state.

A law to pass licensed gaming is likely to help the local gaming interests, as well. If Mississippi followed the model of the three other states which have legalized online gaming–Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware–then the only ones who could receive a gaming license would be those with land-based gaming licenses. Therefore, the casinos in Biloxi, Tunica, and Vicksburg would be allowed to operate online websites which took gamblers from inside the state.

Who Provide the Revenues?

The limitation of having intrastate iGaming might turn off some residents. One of the advantage of having brick-and-mortar casinos in Tunica or Biloxi is the tourist aspect. Instead of collecting revenues from Mississippi taxpayers, gaming venues like Beau Rivage or the Horseshoe often attract out-of-state gamblers who spend their money in the state.

Allowing such gambling would open the door for such opportunities, though. Nevada and Delaware have already signed and interstate poker compact and have invited other states to join (New Jersey, with a much bigger population, declined). Mississippi could sign onto that compact, which would allow in gamblers from Nevada and Delaware. Multiple other states are considering iGaming, including heavily-populated states like California, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New York. If these states joined the interstate compact, a successful Mississippi online gambling industry could bring in large revenues.

People in the state might be fearful that online gambling could hurt the land-based gaming locations, thus costing Mississippians jobs. The numbers in other states seem to undermine that argument. Of those online gamblers in New Jersey who were asked if they had gambled in a land casino in the past two years, 85% said they had not. Quite simply, the vast bulk of online gamblers are not the same people who frequent the brick-and-mortar industry.