Mississippi State Representative Bobby Moak (D – Bogue Chitto) re-introduced an online gaming bill to the state legislature last week, taking another shot at making intrastate online gambling legal in Mississippi after having a similar effort shot down last year.
House Bill 254 aims to establish a regulatory framework for online gambling, including online poker, and has a stated goal, amongst others, of creating 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.
It is essentially identical to HB 1373, the bill Moak introduced last year. That bill was introduced to the Ways and Means Committee on February 20, 2012 and died in that same committee at the beginning of March. Moak’s reasons for legalizing and regulating intrastate online gambling are summarized in Section 1 of the bill, taken word-for-word from last year’s 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.
Section 15 of HB 254 outlines the fees involved in licensing. Operators must first fork over a $100,000 non-refundable deposit in order to simply apply for an internet wagering permit. This deposit would then be applied to the license issuance fee should the operator be approved. That initial issuance fee will be no less than $200,000, while renewal fees will be no less than $100,000 and will ultimately be based upon “the cost of maintaining enforcement, control, and regulation of Internet wagering.” In addition, operators will be required to pay $100,000 to the State General Fund each year and another $100,000 to the Mississippi Gaming Commission Fund which will be used by the commission in “combating criminal activity performed through the use of the Internet.” Licenses will last five years.
On top of all that, operators will be required to pay a monthly fee (or tax of sorts) of 5 percent of gross wagering revenues. 25 percent of that fee will go to the State General Fund and 75 percent will be marked for the Mississippi Gaming Commission Fund.
Sports betting is not permitted under this bill.
As one might expect, people must be at least 21-years old to play at licensed sites and must be located in the state of Mississippi. All players will be required to establish proof of age and residency by providing at least two forms of identification. Before being granted a license, operators will also be required to show the state that they have proper systems in place to block underage and out-of-state players, ensure proper account security, and the like. Fortunately, operators will not be punished for underage players creating accounts provided the operator took reasonable steps to verify the player’s identity and prevent them from playing.