When Tennessee launched its sports gambling market last year, it took a mobile-only approach since there are no physical casinos in the state. That was more of a bonus than anything, since the reaction to the launch was nothing but positive. In the first two months of operation, Tennessee’s sportsbooks took in $312.3 million in wagers, giving the state $5.4 million in tax revenue. Lawmakers in Mississippi, just to the south of Tennessee, are envious of the results and two have introduced bills to bring mobile sportsbooks to the state.
The two senators, Philip Moran and Scott Delano, are leading efforts to allow mobile sports gambling after the state’s initial entry into the activity was limited to just physical casinos. As an indication of how much more Tennessee’s online gambling market has been, Mississippi’s land-based sportsbooks took in $55.3 million last December, substantially lower than its northern neighbor. However, tax revenue generated from that handle was $7.8 million for Mississippi, which was a welcome pile of cash for the state.
Both bills, Senate Bills 2732 and 2396, are relatively simple and straightforward. Casinos that have sportsbook licenses would be able to partner with companies that offer mobile sportsbook solutions, paving the way for an easy entrance into online sports gambling. It’s a step in the right direction, but the bills have to first go through Mississippi’s legislative obstacle course and be approved by Governor Tate Reeves. Even Moran knows it’s not an easy task, explaining, “I would certainly love to get a bill out of committee, to bring it to the floor and discuss it, though it takes a while, nothing happens overnight.”
The additional tax revenue would go a long way toward helping the state’s schools, roadways and more. The VP of the Scarlet Pearl Casino, Ben Koff, is supportive of the measure, understanding what it means for helping Mississippi recover from the damage caused by COVID-19. He also realizes that, with 14 states and the District of Columbia now offering sports gambling (and more states regularly added to the list), Mississippi is playing a losing game. He asserts, “Pretty soon we’re going to be left in the dark, and we can’t be the one left in the dark and lose our customers and our guests choosing to go elsewhere with their casino entertainment dollars.”
The senators’ initiatives are now just getting started, which means a quick turnaround isn’t likely. While Mississippi won’t have mobile sports gambling in time for the Super Bowl, it’s possible that the state will have online sportsbooks up and running sometime before the end of the year.