Mississippi Online Gambling Bill Dies in Committee (Again)



If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. This is a motto that Mississippi State Representative Bobby Moak (D – Bogue Chitto) will need to adopt if he wants to see intrastate online gambling legalized in his state. For the second time in a year, Rep. Moak had an internet gambling bill which he penned shot down before it could really ever get going.

Rep. Moak introduced House Bill 254 to the Mississippi legislature in January. The bill would have established a regulatory framework for online gambling, including poker, within state borders as well as create the Mississippi Lawful Internet Gaming Act of 2013. It was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee, of which Rep. Moak is a member, on January 14. Unfortunately, according to the bill’s information page on the Mississippi legislature’s website, HB 254 died in committee on February 5.

HB 254 was virtually identical to HB 1373, the bill Rep. Moak introduced to the same committee on February 20, 2012. That bill died the following month.

Moak outlined the reasons for legalizing online gambling right off the bad in the text of the bill:

An effective state regulatory and licensing system for online gaming would inhibit underage wagering and otherwise protect vulnerable individuals, ensure that the games offered through the Internet are fair and safe, stop sending much-needed jobs and tax and fee revenue overseas to illegal operators, provide a significant source of taxable revenue, create jobs and economic development, address the concerns of law enforcement, and ensure that only those persons of good character and fitness, who meet strict criteria set forth in law and regulations, are suitable to facilitate and conduct online gaming activities.

Had HB 254 become law, online gambling operators would have had to pay a tax of 5 percent of gross wagering revenues. 75 percent of those taxes would have been paid to the Mississippi Gaming Commission Fund (the aim of which would be to combat criminal activity over the internet) while the remainder would have gone to the State General Fund.

In order to become licensed, prospective operators would have had to pay a $100,000 non-refundable deposit just to apply for an internet wagering permit. If the operator was granted a license, however, this fee would have been applied to the license issuance fee. The initial issuance fee would have been no less than $200,000 and renewal fees would have been no less than $100,000. Those fees would have ultimately been based on the cost to regulate internet gambling in the state. On top of those fees, operators would have had to fork over $100,000 to the State General Fund each year plus another $100,000 to the Mississippi Gaming Commission Fund.

Sports betting would have been outlawed in the bill and players would have been required to be both at least 21-years old and reside in Mississippi.

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