(Population of 2.994 million as of 2014)
Believe it or not Mississippi has been a part of the iGaming conversation for years. In 2012, Rep. Bobby Moak introduced online gaming legislation – the Mississippi Lawful Internet Gaming Act of 2012 – that sought to establish policy and procedures for applicants, licensees, Internet service providers, employees and players.
Unfortunately that bill died after failing to make it through the Ways and Means Committee. Maok tried again in 2013 to the same result. Then, earlier this year, Allen Godfrey, the Executive Director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, contributed to a “Gaming Industry Forecast” for Casino Enterprise Management in which he offered a grim forecast for iGaming.
“While it remains unlikely that Mississippi will copy other states that have legalized some form of Internet gaming, Mississippi will always remain committed to technological innovations that increase efficiencies and lower cost to increase revenue,” Godfrey said. “Now, as 2014 arrives, the Mississippi Gaming Commission remains committed to fairly regulating and supporting the vitality of the gaming industry.”
Still, that tune changed as soon as Mississippi casinos began shuttering their doors. In April of this year, State Rep. Richard Bennett, the Republican chairman of the Mississippi House Gaming Committee, appointed Godfrey to head up a study on how iGaming could effect the state.
“The study's being conducted in a way that we really haven't seen before,” Moak told PokerNews. “At least I'm glad that someone is stepping back and taking a look at it … It really does bring to light that Mississippi has to do more for the industry that it brought into this state in the early and mid-90s. This is something else that should wake us up to say we should do something to help this industry.”
The prediction that Mississippi wouldn’t see any movement in what was an election year in 2015 was accurate. Moak’s bill failed to get through on the committee level in 2015, but he told PokerNews that 2016 would be the real chance for the bill to get considered.
Two casinos closed in Mississippi in 2014 when the competition in neighboring states who’ve taken up gaming resulted in poor revenues. Even so, this is the third time the bill has failed to get as much as a committee hearing.
Moak also noted that because Mississippi is a small state, it would need to combine player pools with other jurisdictions to have successful liquidity.
Since then not much has changed. According to Online Poker Report, other locations in the south have legalized gaming, with Georgia exploring casino expansion and placing pressure on Mississippi to have another look at online gambling.