Mississippi Gambling Laws, Regulations and Guide
Misssissippi differs from most of its neighbors in the Deep South, considering they've embraced casino gambling. The state's casinos pull in over $900 million in annual tax revenue, and support over 37,000 jobs.
Unfortunately, the Magnolia State isn't so liberal about online gaming. In fact, they have language that potentially makes Internet gambling illegal.
We'll cover this language in the next section, and discuss more on Mississippi's iGaming market.
We're also going to discuss important topics regarding the state's land-based gambling industry, including more laws, Mississippi casinos, FAQs and additional resources.
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Online Gambling and Mississippi Law
As mentioned before, Mississippi does have language in their criminal code that could deem iGaming illegal, but they don't have anything concrete in their constitution that makes online gambling illegal.
This means that you'll find plenty of offshore casinos, poker sites and sportsbooks operating here.
As you may know, offshore gaming sites are located in countries/territories like Alderney, Costa Rica, Curacao, Panama and Quebec (Kahnawake Gaming Commission). These companies also obtain licenses in the jurisdictions where they're based.
Considering this fact, Mississippi isn't making any revenue from offshore gaming sites which is one reason why state politicians are having serious discussions about legalizing online poker.
Is Online Gambling Legal in Mississippi?
No. Mississippi iGaming is in a grey area.
The reason why is because they have vague language in their criminal code that possibly makes online gaming illegal. On the other hand, they don't explicitly mention anything about the Internet, computers, mobile devices or smartphones.
Section 97-33-7 (1) contains a broad definition of devices that can be used for illegal gambling:
"It shall be unlawful for any person or persons, firm, copartnership, or corporation to have in possession, own, control, display, or operate any cane rack, knife rack, artful dodger, punch board, roll down, merchandise wheel, slot machine, pinball machine, or similar device or devices."
It's hard to read through this section because it contains ridiculously outdated terms.
But as you can see at the end, "similar device or devices" are broad terms that could be applied to a computer or smartphone.
Of course, we've seen far more damning language against iGaming in other state constitutions. In the absence of stronger legal language, offshore operators continue offering their services to Mississippians.
Can I Get Arrested for Gambling Online in Mississippi?
Possibly. Although there's almost a zero-percent chance of this happening.
First off, we can't find one instance of Mississippi arresting anybody for gambling online. This is common for most states because they don't waste the time or manpower to set up stings on Internet gamblers.
Secondly, the precedent across the U.S. is to avoid arresting and prosecuting online gamblers.
It's very rare that a state ever pursues legal action against somebody for iGaming. This is even true in Washington, where it's a Class C felony to play at online casino and poker sites.
When somebody is arrested for this crime, it's usually because other circumstances are involved, too.
One example is Oklahoma's Roland Benavides, a former police detective who was charged with illegal online gambling. Of course, it's highly likely that Benavides being a policeman at the time weighed into his arrest.
Long story short, the odds are very low that you'll be arrested for gambling online in Mississippi.
Is Mississippi Going to Legalize Online Gaming?
Possibly, but it will be a while.
From 2012-2015, at least one online gaming bill a year was introduced to the State Legislature. Unfortunately, all of these bills have faltered before gaining any considerable attention.
Former State House Rep. Bobby Moak offered the first legislature effort in 2012. This bill would've allowed licensed operators to offer online gambling in the state.
Moak floated this iGaming bill in 2011, after the U.S. Department of Justice gave their opinion that the Federal Wire Act only applies to online sports betting, but the legislation died in the Ways and Means Committee.
In 2015, Moak introduced House Bill 306, which was dubbed the "Mississippi Lawful Internet Gambling Act." Besides seeking to legalize online gaming, this legislation offered a penalty of up to 90 days in jail for anybody caught gambling at offshore sites.
Moak lost his bid for reelection in 2015, and served out his term. Since this time, Mississippi has been quiet on the Internet gambling front.
Are Offshore Gambling Sites Safe?
Until the Magnolia State legalizes online gaming, Mississippians' best option remains offshore sites.
These sites do pose a risk though, because they're not licensed in the U.S. Instead, these companies operate outside America, where they're not subject to the same laws and standards.
The quality of an offshore gaming site can vary based on the following factors:
- How long they've been in business.
- Their licensing jurisdiction.
- The company that owns the site.
Longstanding operators are more trustworthy because they've served customers well enough to draw repeat business.
The licensing jurisdiction matters because some have stricter requirements and higher fees.
Curacao is a respected offshore jurisdiction that provides some oversight. Costa Rica, on the other hand, has light licensing requirements and doesn't offer any oversight.
Some companies own multiple offshore gaming sites. You'll find that some of these businesses are more reputable than others.
In summary, there are both reputable and unsavory offshore gambling sites. The key is that you do the research to find the good ones, which we'll cover below.
How do I Choose a Good Online Gaming Site?
Here are some tips that'll help you find quality offshore casinos, poker rooms and sportsbooks:
- Read Reviews
- Ask Customer Support a Simple Question
- Deposit Options
- Game Variety
- Customer Complaints
- Bonus Terms & Conditions
We realize that this isn't earth-shattering advice, but it's worth stressing that the more reviews you read, the better chance you have of finding a respected site.
Customer service is important if you want your questions and issues solved quickly. We suggest sending a simple question to customer support via live chat to see, A) how quickly they respond, and B) how courteous they are.
Does the offshore casino you're looking at have deposit options you can use? Always check a site's cashier page to see what banking methods are available.
Another section that you want to visit is the games area. Any good casino or poker site will offer enough games to keep you entertained for a long while.
Here's an easy step that'll tell you volumes about a site: Google the casino/poker room/sportsbook you're considering along with the word "complaints."
Big tournaments spice up your online casino and poker experience. Check out a site's tourney lobby to see what's available.
How much do you have to wager before claiming your full welcome bonus? The less, the better. Look up the terms and conditions that come along with a bonus to see what's required of you.
Breaking down what exactly is or isn't legal in Mississippi. Gambling Venues in Mississippi
Where to gamble in the state of Mississippi. The History of Gaming Laws in Mississippi
A brief history of Mississippi laws regarding gambling. Mississippi Gambling FAQs
A list of questions asked about gambling in Mississippi Additional Information
Still have questions? Check out these links. The Future of Gambling in Mississippi
What does the future of gambling look like in Mississippi?
More Gambling Laws in Mississippi
Mississippi has a long history of gambling that dates back to nineteenth century riverboats.
This culture - along with pressure from citizens - pushed the Magnolia State into legalizing casino gambling in 1990.
The Mississippi Gaming Control Act allows for casinos to be docked on waterways. Just two years later, the first docked casino was up and running.
In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina leveled much of the Gulf Coast, including Mississippi's docked casinos.
The state changed the law, allowing Gulf Coast casinos to be built up to 800 feet away from the shoreline. This helped Biloxi create a significant casino destination.
All other Mississippi commercial casinos must be located on rivers - except for tribal establishments.
Casino laws are liberal in this state because there are no betting limits, venues can serve alcohol and they can stay open 24/7.
You'll also find all of the classic casino games in Mississippi, including blackjack, craps, roulette, poker, slot machines and video poker.
Charitable Gambling: Legal
The Magnolia State has restrictive laws when it comes to charity gaming.
The only game that approved charities can offer is bingo. This means no casino nights, raffles or card games.
Other restrictions include the size of payouts offered and how many times a charity can hold bingo outings per year.
Mississippi is one of only five states that doesn't have a lottery. In fact, they don't even allow charities and other non-profits to run lottery-style games as fundraisers.
The State House has recently begun studying lottery pros and cons to see how the state would benefit, but as of now, no action has been taken towards legalizing a lottery.
Live poker is offered in Mississippi's commercial and tribal casinos. With dozens of poker rooms scattered throughout the state, players can find all major poker variations like Texas hold'em, Omaha, Omaha Hi-Lo and 7-card stud.
Just like the lottery, Mississippi is also one of the rare states that doesn't allow horseracing. They join Alaska, Hawaii and Utah in banning pari-mutuel betting.
Social Gambling: Illegal
Section 97-33-1 explains illegal gambling as follows:
"If any person shall encourage, promote or play at any game, play or amusement, other than a fight or fighting match between dogs, for money or other valuable thing, or shall wager or bet, promote or encourage the wagering or betting of any money or other valuable things, upon any game, play, amusement, cockfight, Indian ball play, or duel, other than a fight or fighting match between dogs, or upon the result of any election, event or contingency whatever, upon conviction thereof, he shall be fined in a sum not more than Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00); and, unless such fine and costs be immediately paid, shall be imprisoned for any period not more than ninety (90) days."
As you can see from mentions of "Indian ball play," a "duel" and exemptions for dog and cockfighting, we're dealing with antiquated language here.
Regardless, Mississippi operates on the grounds that any non-exempted form of gambling is illegal. Since no mention of home poker games or social gambling is made, we assume that the activity is banned.
We should also mention that we can't find any arrest records for a recreational home poker game.
Therefore, you're probably fine to hold home poker games in the Magnolia State as long as the host isn't profiting and there's nothing illegal going on.
Gambling Venues in Mississippi
For a state that doesn't have pari-mutuel betting or a lottery, Mississippi certainly has more than enough land-based casinos.
As mentioned before, the state's casino industry nets around $1 billion in annual revenue. It also provides tens of thousands of jobs.
Several towns in Mississippi have become notable casino destinations, including Biloxi, Gulfport, Tunica and Vicksburg.
For Tunica, a once-poor town near the Mississippi River, the casinos have been community altering. They've gone from an extremely poor town of 1,200, to a city with 10,780 people and even more opportunities.
Below you can see some of the casinos in Tunica and other Mississippi towns:
1- Ameristar Casino
Vicksburg 4155 Washington St, Vicksburg, MS 39180
2- Bally's Tunica
1450 Bally Blvd, Robinsonville, MS 38664
875 Beach Blvd, Biloxi, MS 39530
3- Bok Homa Casino
1 Choctaw Rd, Heidelberg, MS 39439
4- Boomtown Casino Biloxi
676 Bayview Ave, Biloxi, MS 39530
5- Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Biloxi
777 Beach Blvd, Biloxi, MS 39530
6- Harrah's Gulf Coast
280 Beach Blvd, Biloxi, MS 39530
7- Hollywood Casino Tunica
1150 Casino Strip Resort Blvd, Robinsonville, MS 38664
8- Horseshoe Casino Tunica
1150 Casino Strip Resort Blvd, Robinsonville, MS 38664
9- Isle of Capri Casino Hotel Lula
777 Isle of Capri Pkwy, Lula, MS 38644
10- Resorts Casino Tunica
1100 Casino Strip Resort Blvd, Robinsonville, MS 38664
11- Sam's Town Tunica
1477 Casino Strip Resort Blvd, Robinsonville, MS 38664
History of Gambling in Mississippi
Prior to the 1990s, Mississippi had a very conservative attitude towards gambling. This changed though, when they passed the Mississippi Gaming Control Act and allowed riverboat/dockside casinos.
Today, Mississippi is one of America's biggest casino destinations. They have several large gambling establishments and commonly host major poker tournaments.
The next step will be for the state to legalize online gaming. This could be a while though, since most of the Deep South pays little attention to the idea.
Here's a closer look at some of the biggest events in Mississippi's gambling history:
Public support for legal casino gambling grows.
First legal casino opens on a waterway.
Hurricane Katrina destroys Gulf Coast dockside casinos; state passes new law that casinos can be built on Gulf Coast shoreline.
Casinos generate $935 million in tax revenue and employ over $37,000 people.
Daily fantasy sports bill passed with sunset provision.
Long-term daily fantasy sports legislation passes.
State Legislature passes Mississippi Gaming Control Act
Mississippi Gaming Commission begins regulating the industry.
State Rep. Bobby Moats introduces iGaming bill, which fails to advance out of committee.
Online gaming bill with punishments for offshore gambling introduced; dies at the committee level.
Mississippi Gambling FAQs
Due to the lack of clarification in their laws, Mississippi leaves multiple questions regarding their iGaming scene.
We covered some common questions in the Online Gambling section, but here are a few more questions that many players have.
Gov. Phil Bryant signed a daily fantasy sports (DFS) bill into effect in 2017. This made Mississippi the ninth state in America to legalize the activity.
Mississippi had an interesting road to legalizing DFS. Attorney General Jim Hood announced that the activity was illegal in 2016.
This was followed by the State Legislature passing a temporary DFS bill months later. This law had a sunset provision that only lasted while politicians further studied the matter.
Industry leaders DraftKings and FanDuel continued operating in Mississippi throughout 2016. With the updated 2017 legislation, they must pay a $5,000 annual operator fee and 8% tax on revenue generated from the state.
The Magnolia State doesn't have any language that's specifically aimed at offshore operators. This makes for little surprise that they haven't pursued legal action against these companies either.
Few states have bothered going through the legal process against offshore sites located thousands of miles away. Kentucky and Maryland have both taken action, but neither effort resulted in much punishment for unlicensed gaming sites.
Mississippi often ranks as America's poorest state in terms of household income. That said, state politicians will probably never waste taxpayer dollars chasing after offshore companies.
Former State Rep. Bobby Moak isn't the only politician who has considered online gaming in the state. State Rep. Richard Bennett was also interested, and formed a task force to study what online poker could do for Mississippi.
Studies and legislative efforts have failed to produce legal iGaming so far. One big reason why is that religious and anti-gambling groups have fought against the matter.
As mentioned earlier, Mississippi is in the conservative Deep South. Even with a progressive attitude towards brick-and-mortar gambling, some still fear Internet gambling.
Nevertheless, the state has two crucial elements that could push them towards legal iGaming in the future:
- Some land-based casinos are interested in legal online gambling.
- Previous discussions have planted the seed in other politicians' minds.
One thing Mississippi doesn't have is neighboring states that are seriously considering iGaming. The desire to keep tax dollars in-state has fueled the land-based gambling market.
Once there are other states in the Deep South considering online gaming, this will push Mississippi closer to legalizing the activity.
This state doesn't have legal racing or a lottery. That said, the Mississippi Gaming Commission is the state's sole gambling agency.
Below you'll find more information on the Gaming Commission along with another helpful resource.
Mississippi Gaming Commission- The Gaming Commission works to regulate the state's commercial casinos, issue licenses and ensure fair gaming. They also worked with state politicians following Hurricane Katrina to set up new rules that would protect Gulf Coast casinos.
Mississippi Gambling Definitions- This page is found on the Mississippi Secretary of State's website, and it covers a number of definitions and terms used in the constitution's gambling section.
The Future & Your Views
Mississippi is one of the faster states to introduce legal daily fantasy sports. They were also one of the quicker places to legalize casino gambling, too.
The Magnolia State has cooled on regulating online poker and casino games.
State Rep. Bobby Moak was the catalyst behind earlier efforts to legalize the activity, but ever since he lost his re-election bid, no advancements have been made on the subject.
Perhaps we'll see Mississippi take the matter more seriously if their DFS operation takes off. After all, it'll be hard for politicians to pass up iGaming if it can bring major revenue to the state.
Land-based casinos could continue pushing for the matter too. Gambling growth has slowed in Mississippi in recent years, and operators could use a new injection of profits.
Overall, we don't see Mississippi as being the next state to legalize online gambling, but they've at least discussed the matter and seem interested in doing so in future years.