Mississippi Online Gambling Bill Includes Poker, Criminality for Gray Market Sites

January 14th, 2015 | by Jason Reynolds
Bobby Moak Mississippi Online Gambling Bill

Representative Bobby Moak, whose HB 306 aims to legalize Mississippi online gambling, but with a heavy-handedness toward players who move into unlicensed markets. (Image: mspoliticalpulse.com)

A Mississippi online gambling bill has been presented for the new legislative session by Assemblyman Bobby Moak (D-District 53), as he renews his efforts to legalize online poker and online casino games in the state.

This is Moak’s third attempt to introduce such legislation, having failed to get previous bills, in 2012 and 2013, respectively, past the committee stage.

The Mississippi Lawful Gaming Act 2015 seeks to introduce a regulatory framework for online gaming and is notable for its proposed tough stance on anyone who continues to play on unlicensed sites in a post-regulation landscape.

The bill proposes that players caught using unregulated sites should face jail time or a fine of up to $10,000.

Possessions Could Be Confiscated

“A person is guilty of unlawful Internet gambling when the person knowingly causes, engages in or permits any gambling activity prohibited under Sections 1 through 19 of this act through the Internet from any point within the state, whether the gambling activity is conducted within or without the state,” states the bill.

“Any person who is convicted of violating the provisions of subsection (2) of this section shall be punished as follows: For a violation of paragraph (a) [the paragraph quoted above] of subsection (2) of this section, he shall be imprisoned in the county jail for up to ninety (90) days or fined up to Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000.00), or both.”

It also suggests that players may have property confiscated that can be directly traced to their gambling winnings.

“In addition to fines, imprisonment, or both, any person or entity convicted of an offense under this section shall forfeit any property, real or personal, constituting or traceable to gross profits or other proceeds obtained from such offense,” it states.

PPA Responds

The Poker Players Alliance (PPA), the group that lobbies on behalf of the interests of poker players in the US, was quick to denounce the heavy-handedness of these clauses as “misguided.” Rich Muny of the PPA told Pokerfuse this week that “player penalties wrongly shift the target of enforcement efforts from hard-to-reach offshore sites to the players.”

There are positive aspects of the bill, however, such as immediate willingness to enter into interstate and international compact to share player pools, which might negate the need for players to seek out the unlicensed market in the first place.

“Eligible compact partners,” it states, “include other states, foreign governments, tribal areas, and any governmental unit of a national, state or local body exercising governmental functions, other than the United States government.”

The bill is still a long way from becoming law, however, and indications are that the odds are stacked against it. Allen Godfrey, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, said recently that regulation “remains unlikely that Mississippi will copy other states that have legalized some form of Internet gaming.”

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