Sports betting rules OK'd for Mississippi casinos

Sports fanatics may soon be able to gamble on their favorite teams at Mississippi’s state-regulated casinos following a unanimous decision Thursday by the state Gaming Commission to approve rules on sports betting.

Panel members OK'd the regulations without discussion, Executive Director Allen Godfrey said. The rules allow the state's casinos to move forward when the guidelines take effect in 30 days – meaning gamblers may be able to place bets as soon as July.

Mississippi joins a handful of states in approving sports betting after the Supreme Court repealed a law last month that banned sports betting in all but four states, including Nevada – paving the way for legal gambling. But unlike in some other states, gamblers will have to go to the actual casinos in Mississippi to place their sports bets.

Delaware, along with New Jersey and Nevada have legalized sports betting, while West Virginia and Pennsylvania have recently passed bills to get into the game, according to ESPN.

Thursday’s decision however, didn’t come without a few caveats. Some sports betting service providers may have to be licensed by the commission before the betting begins, and equipment such as betting kiosks will also need to be tested and approved by the state.

Despite the hopes of golf’s PGA Tour, Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association, the commission also denied requests to limit casinos to mainly using official data supplied by the sports leagues.

The professional leagues were also hoping the commission would ban certain kinds of bets, in particular, those that 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 the PGA Tour, told Jackson, Miss.'s 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 hope was that the betting would reinvigorate the state’s casino business, a once thriving operation in the 1990s that has since struggled as gambling competition has spread.

Although the newfound state tax revenue from betting is expected to total less than $10 million a year, casinos believe it will give them a competitive edge and draw in more customers who will spend on other services besides betting.

Casinos will pay state and local taxes of 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.

Bets from coaches or athletes are prohibited, and casinos must report suspicious wagers over $5,000. Sports books are supposed to get detailed information on anyone betting or winning more than $10,000.

The three casinos run by Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians that use their own sports book aren’t regulated by the state, but Godfrey said he expects state and tribal rules will mesh "very closely."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.