For the third year in a row, an online poker bill has been filed in the state of Mississippi. Unfortunately, there’s little chance that it will even come to a vote. House Bill 306, the Mississippi Lawful Internet Gambling Act of 2015, would seek to make online poker and other forms of online gambling legal. Rep. Bobby Moak once again is the bill’s sponsor.
Two prior attempts to introduce this legislation have failed to emerge from committee and odds are the same will happen to this bill. Despite what is certainly a losing battle, Moak still submitted the bill in hopes to keep lines of dialogue open in the state.
Most of the Bill Remains the Same from Prior Filings
If you’ve been following past instances of this bill in Mississippi, there really isn’t anything new in terms of licensing, fees, etc. Providers would pay an initial licensing fee of $200,000 and then $200,000 a year that is split between the State General Fund and the MS Gaming Commission Fund. Taxes on gross gaming revenues are set at 5%. Like in past bills, Internet cafes are banned. Players must be 21 or older in order to play.
Players Could Face Fines for Playing at Unregulated Sites
A couple of noticeable changes for this year’s bill involve unregulated sites. First, any online site that operates within the state without a license can be hit with a fine of $250,000 per incident of violation. In layman’s terms, a provider such as Bovada could be socked with a fine each time a user logs in and plays within Mississippi state lines.
However, it doesn’t stop there. There are also provisions within the bill to actually fine players who access and play at unregulated sites. States typically do not go after players, but instead pursue providers. This bill would make it possible to hunt down players. At present, only Washington State makes it outright illegal to play online poker, but even they don’t hunt down the users.
Don’t Expect Much Movement
While we can applaud Moak’s tenacity in continuing to push for legislation, there’s little reason to believe there will be any movement. First, it is an election year in the state and it’s hard to see any type of gambling expansion happening during an election year.
Next, a task force was created last year to examine the benefits of iGaming in the state. Those results have yet to come back and it’s unlikely that any movement will happen without these reports.
Finally, it is a still a bit early for Mississippi to enter the fray. Only three states have legalized online poker and gambling and revenues have fallen short of expectations. Mississippi will likely step back and see how things proceed in 2015 and whether other big players such as California and Pennsylvania decide to enter the marketplace.