The Magnolia State won’t be expanding its sports betting industry in 2020.
For the second year in a row, legislation on the table in Mississippi to allow statewide online/mobile sports betting has failed to gain traction. The state’s sports betting market is currently confined to retail, with mobile wagering allowed within brick-and-mortar casinos.
One proposal, House Bill No. 172, died in the House Gaming Committee on Tuesday. Another bill, Senate Bill No. 2613, also died Tuesday in the Senate Gaming Committee. Same story for Senate Bill No. 2614, House Bill No. 959, and House Bill No. 941, all of which included mobile sports betting provisions.
While the state’s casino industry didn’t comment publicly on the proposals, one can read the tea leaves and assume competing firms in the industry aren’t at a consensus on a new law for statewide online/mobile sportsbooks. It doesn’t appear to be due to a lack of desire among policymakers.
HB 172 was the first of the bills filed, introduced in late January by Rep. Cedric Burnett, a Democrat. The other competing proposals weren’t filed until mid-February.
Burnett’s House District 9 includes Tunica, home to casinos from the likes of Penn National Gaming, MGM Resorts International, and Caesars Entertainment.
All three companies are involved with online/mobile gambling in other jurisdictions. Other sports betting juggernaut brands involved with Mississippi right now include William Hill, DraftKings, and FanDuel.
State of market
Mississippi’s retail sportsbooks and on-site mobile apps handled more than $570 million in bets from the August 2018 launch through January 2020. That comes to an average of about $31 million per month.
Even with online/mobile, Mississippi isn’t a top tier market for the nascent U.S. sports betting industry. However, it could be more attractive. Indiana, which kicked off its sports wagering industry more than a year later than Mississippi’s, handled more than $600 million in wagers from September 2019 through January.
Indiana’s first online/mobile sportsbooks launched in October. In January, the Hoosier State saw more than 70% of the handle come via the internet.
A 2017 study conducted by Oxford Economics, commissioned by the American Gaming Association, projected that Mississippi would see more than double the sports wagering handle with statewide online/mobile than it would with retail only.
Mississippi is home to more than two dozen sportsbooks.
The limited sports betting in the state has made a noticeable positive impact on the casino gambling market. According to data compiled by the University of Nevada Las Vegas’ Center for Gaming Research, Mississippi casinos won $2.24 billion from gamblers in 2019, up nearly 5% compared to 2018.
Mississippi casino gambling revenue fell in 2017, the year before sports wagering began.
The state should eventually expand to statewide online/mobile, as the $2.24 billion last year was still less than what the casinos won in 2012. The motivation to grow the market should eventually win out, but it could take multiple years. None of the bills on the table in 2020 even received a vote.
Furthermore, Mississippi shares a substantial border with Tennessee, which is moving to launch an online/mobile-only sports wagering market. However, there are concerns about how attractive the Volunteer State’s market will be, thanks to proposed regulations that have received heavy industry criticism.