A bill which would have legalized and regulated internet gambling in the state of Mississippi has died in committee. House Bill 1373, the Mississippi Lawful Internet Gaming Act of 2012, was introduced by State Representative Bobby Moak to the Mississippi House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee on February 20, 2012 and unfortunately died a week ago.
In Section 1 of the bill, Rep. Moak, who is the first Chairman of the House Gaming Committee, wrote why legalizing online gambling is a good idea:
“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.”
As one would expect, internet gambling operators would have to be licensed by the state. In order to apply, they would have had to plunk down a $100,000 non-refundable deposit. If the application was approved, the operator would then have to pay at least a $200,000 licensing fee and then a $100,000 renewal fee each year.
Other highlights of the legislation included:
• Legal online gambling age of 21
• All hardware and software used by the operators for internet gambling must be tested and approved by the gaming commission.
• Customers must submit proper proof of identity before being allowed to have a gambling account.
• Operators would not get in trouble if an underage, out-of-state, or otherwise ineligible customer played on their site if that customer lied about their identity, as long as the operator reasonably believed that the person was who they said they were (essentially, the operator went through the proper identification procedures, but the player did a really good job faking it).
• Internet service providers would not be liable for illegal internet gambling as long as they had no direct knowledge of its existence.
• Any customer whose gambling account goes dormant for a year could have their funds forfeited, with half going to the state and half going to the operator.
• Employees of the gambling operator are not allowed to have accounts on their site, though they may have accounts on different sites.
• Fines ranging from $50,000 to $200,000, as well as license suspensions, would be in order for individuals who tamper with the gaming software or hardware.
Rep. Moak’s legislation was spurred on by the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DoJ) December clarification of its stance on internet gambling. Just before Christmas, the DoJ surprised the gaming community, saying that, contrary to what it had opined for years, the Wire Act of 1961 applies only to sports betting, not other games like online poker. In the bill, Moak wrote, “…the State of Mississippi finds that any question regarding the state’s authority to regulate lawful Internet gaming that may have resulted from interpretations that such gaming violated certain other federal anti-gambling laws has been vacated by action of the United States Department of Justice on December 23, 2011.”
There is no word yet on whether or not Rep. Moak will make another run with his bill in the future.