A Mississippi online poker bill died in committee this week, ending any hopes for Internet poker players that the game would be regulated in the state this year.
The bill, introduced by Mississippi State Representative Bobby Moak (D-Bogue Chitto), is now officially designated as “dead” on the Mississippi Legislature website.
Known as the Mississippi Lawful Internet Gaming Act of 2015, the bill was only the most recent attempt by Moak to advance such legislation, something he has unsuccessfully tried for three years now. The bill would have allowed for online poker to be regulated in the state, while also leaving the door open to compacts with other states or jurisdictions for player-sharing compacts.
“My republican colleagues have not been moving very much at all concerning gaming,” Moak told PokerNews. “They haven’t looked at doing any of the incentives that some other businesses get, and we’ve got to create some opportunities to help the bottom lines for gaming houses.”
Still, the failure of the bill to gain any traction in the state legislature wasn’t much of a surprise. All along, Moak predicted that his bill would face a steep uphill challenge in 2015, and that 2016 was a much better target for his online poker bill, though even then it may be difficult for him to build momentum for his plan.
At the moment, only Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware have regulated online gambling inside their state borders. While all three states have seen revenues fall short of the lofty projections that were bandied about before the games went live, Moak doesn’t think that should dissuade Mississippi or other states from considering online poker.
“We all know the numbers weren’t as huge as some people thought they would be, but my position on Internet gaming is just to give the industry options it needs in this changing market,” he said. “It’s another tool they should have.”
While Moak’s bill was likely dead on arrival because of a lack of interest in online gambling among his fellow lawmakers, some of the provisions in his legislation were also controversial among supporters of Internet poker.
Most notably, the bill included penalties aimed at players who played on unauthorized online poker sites, potentially including fines of up to $10,000 and even 90 days in prison.
“I think all player penalties are misguided,” Poker Players Alliance Vice President of Player Relations Rich Muny told pokerfuse when the bill was first introduced last month. “Players penalties wrongly shift the target of enforcement efforts from hard-to-reach offshore sites to the players.”
But Moak says that there’s still plenty of time to adjust his bill to meet the concerns of players, operators, and legislators alike. If the bill ever gets a serious look, he said, many groups will have input into what the final product looks like.
“There will be plenty of opportunity for different groups to come in and espouse their wishes on how it should be,” Moak said. “It’s way early in the process for that.”
While Mississippi may not be considering online poker this year, there are still other states that have Internet gambling legislation on the table.
California is once again taking a look at the issue, but may struggle to build a coalition between various gaming interests in the state. The state of Washington, the only state in the US that actually considers online poker play a Class C felony at this time, was also considering such a bill, but it was reportedly DOA as well.