Mississippi gambling regulators approve sports betting rules

Published 5:11 pm Thursday, June 21, 2018

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi’s state-regulated casinos could begin taking sports bets as soon as late July, after gambling regulators on Thursday approved rules regulating sports betting.

The state Gaming Commission unanimously approved the rules without discussion, said Executive Director Allen Godfrey.

Casinos can move ahead when the rules become final in 30 days, but some sports betting service providers may have to be licensed by the commission before betting begins. Such service providers are already applying for licenses. Equipment such as betting kiosks must also be tested, with tests approved by the state.

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The commission declined to make some changes requested by professional sports leagues after the proposed rules were published for public comment in May.

Golf’s PGA Tour, as well as Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association, wanted the commission to limit casinos to mostly using official data supplied by the sports leagues. They also wanted the ability to demand that the commission ban certain kinds of bets. At issue is the ability for bettors to wager on what the PGA Tour’s Andy Levinson referred to as “easily controllable moments,” such as “who commits the first foul of a basketball game.”

“Certain types of bets are inherently risker than others,” Levinson, senior vice president of tournament administration for golf’s PGA Tour, told the Clarion Ledger .
He warned the new regulations “put sports fans, sports bettors, athletes and professional sport themselves at risk.”

Mississippi changed its law in 2017 to allow sports betting as part of a bill legalizing and regulating fantasy sports. The U.S. Supreme Court last month struck down a federal law that barred gambling on football, basketball, baseball and other sports in most states.

Unlike in some other states, Mississippi’s betting will be confined to casinos.

The state’s casinos, which boomed in the 1990s, have struggled with competition as gambling spread. Casinos hope betting will give Mississippi gambling halls a competitive edge. Betting itself is likely to produce less than $10 million a year in state tax revenue, but casinos hope it will attract customers who will spend on hotel rooms, restaurants and other gambling.

Casinos will pay state and local taxes worth 12 percent of the wagers minus the payouts. Mississippi casinos can take bets on any pro, college or Olympic sport, or any other proposition approved by regulators except political elections. But the commission can veto certain types of wagers.

Casinos can’t take bets from coaches or athletes and must report suspicious bets over $5,000. Sports books are supposed to get detailed information on anyone betting or winning more than $10,000.

Three casinos run by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians plan their own sports books. Those casinos aren’t regulated by the state, but Godfrey said he expects state and tribal rules will mesh “very closely.”