Mississippi Unlikely To See Online Poker Anytime Soon

May 20th, 2015 | by Greg Shaun
Online poker Mississippi study lottery

The Mississippi legislature is unlikely to take up online poker anytime soon. (Image: Trip Burns/Jackson Free Press)

Mississippi online poker was never something that supporters had really hoped to push through the state legislature this year, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when a bill to regulate the game died quickly earlier this year.

Now, at least one legislator in the state says that poker and other casino games won’t be legalized on the Internet in the state anytime soon, though other new forms of betting could be allowed at some point.

That prediction came from state Representative Richard Bennett (R-Long Beach), chairman of the House Gaming Committee in Louisiana.

Last year, Bennett asked for a study on Internet gambling and sports betting that would take into account a number of factors.

Lawmakers Uninterested in Internet Poker

The result seems to be a reluctance from most lawmakers to take up the issue at the moment.

“In Mississippi right now, it’s just too early for us to look at going to Internet gaming,” Bennett told the Sun Herald. “We’re a state that’s going to stay back and watch.”

That’s not a shocking thing to hear in Mississippi, which has been fairly conservative when it comes to gambling outside of regulated casinos.

Mississippi is one of just five states that doesn’t yet have a lottery, and disappointing returns from online poker and casino games in New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware may have made it a less enticing option for legislators.

Efforts to push online poker legislation in the state have failed for several years, with State Representative Bobby Moak (D-Bogue Chitto) last introducing a bill earlier this year. That bill died in committee during February without garnering any real consideration.

“My Republican colleagues have not been moving very much at all concerning gaming,” Moak told PokerNews at the time. He said he hoped his bill might get a longer look next year, though that does not seem likely given Bennett’s comments.

Lottery, Sports Betting Could Be Considered

But while online poker may not be on the table, Bennett says that other gambling games could be added in the near future. One obvious place to start would be by finally allowing at least some version of a lottery in the state.

Lotteries are legal in Mississippi, as citizens voted in favor of one back in 1992 and the state constitution was amended to allow such games. However, no lottery was ever launched in the state.

Now, Bennett says the gains would be limited from a state lottery. Since all surrounding states have already launched lotteries of their own, only Louisiana residents would be likely to play.

Instead, he has suggested that a national lottery like Powerball would be a more likely fit for the state. Ticket sales could even potentially be limited to casinos, allowing those who want to play to buy tickets, but keeping gambling out of towns that weren’t interested in allowing it.

Sports betting could be a potential addition to Mississippi, too. If New Jersey were able to win its case against the major sports leagues in the 3rd Circuit Court (and that ruling were to hold up), casinos and racetracks in that state could offer sports bets legally.

According to Mississippi Gaming Commission Executive Director Allen Godfrey, such a ruling might see Mississippi also consider adding sports betting at casinos.  Such a move could help the state’s struggling casino industry, which has seen revenues fall in six of the past seven years.



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