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Mississippi Gaming Commission gives green light for betting on sports

APPROVED: The Mississippi Gaming Commission approved new regulations for the sports gaming industry. Photo by Steve Wilson

The Mississippi Gaming Commission unanimously approved new regulations for sports gambling Thursday that will allow casinos to start taking bets by the start of football season.

Under the new regulations, sports betting will only be allowed in casinos presently holding a license and only on mobile devices inside the casino property. Wagers will only be allowed on casino property. This differs from Nevada, where players can set up an account at a casino and wager anywhere in the state.

The regulations will go into effect 30 days from today, which would be July 21. Casinos would still have to get commission approval for kiosks and other equipment used for bets.

"We're excited about football season, but there's a lot of steps that still have to happen with licensure and building out spaces," said Jonathan Jones, the general manager of Harrah's Gulf Coast. "It puts a little bit of a burden on us to create great experiences at the casinos, but we're excited about that.

"We've got some great properties in Mississippi and you've got some great operators in Mississippi, so you're going to see a healthy level of competition."

Not everyone is happy about the new regulations. Andy Levinson — the senior vice president of tournament administration at the PGA Tour — criticized the new regulations during a brief comment period after the regulations were approved by the commission. He also said his views represented those of Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association as well.

"While the opportunity is vast, so are the risks and the state should take proper steps to ensure the integrity of the sports that have long been a significant part of Mississippi's economy and culture," Levinson said. "Unfortunately, the authorizing law and the regulations passed today fall far short of protecting the authenticity of the sports that generations of Mississippians love and hold dear and will put sports fans, sports bettors, athletes and the professional sports at risk."

Levinson said that the state should require operators to use statistics only provided by the leagues themselves, restrict certain betting types that he said would be more open to corruption, require operators to share information with regulators and sports leagues to discover possible integrity breaches via betting patterns and provide some compensation from sports books to the sports leagues.

Sports leagues such as the NBA have floated the idea of a 1 percent "integrity fee" assessed on every bet that would pay for what the leagues say are compliance costs and intellectual property rights.

The federal ban on sports gaming — except in Nevada — was struck down by a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, Murphy vs. National Collegiate Athletic Association.

In 2016, Mississippi temporarily legalized daily fantasy sports and created a study commission. The Legislature approved permanent legislation in 2017 that not only set guidelines for the Gaming Commission to regulate daily fantasy sports, but also struck language from state law that prohibited betting on sports.

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