As Mississippi Casinos Take Sports Bets, What Does it Mean for Alabama?

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On Wednesday, August 1st, two Mississippi casinos started taking sports bets. The casinos, Beau Rivage Resort and Casino in Biloxi, and the Gold Strike Casino in Tunica, opened their sportsbooks for legal sports gambling in the state. Two more casinos, Sam’s Town in Tunica, and IP Casino in Biloxi, will start to take bets on sporting events later in August. Alabama and Mississippi are, of course, both conservative states, both socially and politically. But it seems that Mississippi has more in common with New Jersey, when it comes to gambling, than it does its next-door neighbor. So what does Mississippi’s stance on sports betting mean for Alabama? And, when will Alabama legalize sports betting?

SCOTUS Decision

On May 14 of this year, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down a 1992 federal law that banned most states from allowing sports betting. The court, which had a 6-3 ruling, said that the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) law violated constitutional principles and made it up to each state to make policy regarding sports betting. Congress might decide to regulate sports betting on a federal level, but until then, each state can act freely.

Sports Betting in Mississippi

Other than Nevada, Mississippi is the third state to offer legal on-site sports gambling. Right now, it’s the only Southern state that is legally allowed to offer sports betting. With Mississippi right next door to Alabama, it is more than likely that anyone who lives in The Heart of Dixie will head on over to Mississippi to spend their money gambling and wagering on sports.

There’s no law against people traveling to another state to place legal bets, but any gambling winnings, no matter where they were won, will be taxed in the person’s home state. Furthermore, the state of Mississippi will take three percent of any gambling winnings when a person receives their payout.

Mississippi casinos first started opening in 1992, 26 years ago. They bring in around $250 million in revenue for the state each year, out of an approximate $2 billion total income. That’s not including sports betting, of course, so more money will make its way to the state coffers thanks to the state’s most recent changes to sports betting laws.

Alabama’s Law on Sports Betting

Sports betting, unlike a lottery, is not outright banned in the Alabama Constitution. One expert says that in order for sports betting to become legal in the state, all it will take is approval from the State Legislature. However, another expert, namely Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, who just happens to be Alabama’s top law enforcement officer, said he thinks a vote of the people would be required.

Marshall’s spokesperson, Mike Lewis, spoke with AL.com, and said that

“It is our view that a constitutional amendment would be the only way to conclusively establish the legality of sport gambling.”

Basically, Marshall’s opinion is that the SCOTUS decision to overrule the ban doesn’t make gambling legal; it puts the right to decide back to the states. And, Alabama has already said sports gambling is against the law.

Alabama is historically anti-gambling. There are many people who doubt the state will ever legitimize sports betting or any other kind of legal gambling, no matter how much profit it would bring the state. According to an article on Al.com, Danny Sheridan, a sports analyst and oddsmaker who lives in Mobile, Alabama,

“President Trump will kneel for the National Anthem before Alabamians will get to vote on lottery, casinos, and sports betting.”

Nineteen years ago was the last time voters in Alabama had the chance to decide on a lottery, and it was voted down. To put the state’s conservativeness when it comes to gambling in even more perspective, the state also prohibits daily fantasy sports, something only eight other states have banned. Fantasy sports is a huge online industry that allows players to compete against each other by putting together fictional teams of real players chosen out of real sports leagues.

Alabama’s Poarch Creek Casinos

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians currently operates three different casinos in the state of Alabama: Montgomery, Atmore, and Wetumpka. If legalized under tribal law, those three casinos could start to offer sports betting, but that decision is up to the tribe according to Will Green who is the senior director for strategic communications for the American Gaming Association. It should be noted, also, that the three casinos operated on tribal land are the only three casinos in the whole state and they aren’t allowed to offer table games like roulette or blackjack.

Illegal Betting in Alabama

Representative Joe Lovvorn told The Auburn Plainsman back in May, when the SCOTUS decision was announced, that gambling has always been popular in Alabama, even though it’s illegal. He also said gambling will happen whether it’s illegal or not, and that the Supreme Court’s decision will help eliminate the black market of illegal sports betting. He has encouraged people to drive to Mississippi to place legal bets rather than place illegal bets in Alabama.

Sports Betting in Other States

As of this writing, only a few states have full-scale legalized sports betting: Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, and Mississippi. Several more states have passed bills legalizing it, but have not yet implemented sports gambling: New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Rhode Island. PA is at a crossroads with casinos unwilling to pay the high taxes and licensing fees. West Virginia should have their sports betting framework up and running by football season.

Thirteen more states have introduced sports betting bills but those bills have not passed, which means they are slowly moving towards legalization: Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, Connecticut, California, Montana, Kentucky, Maryland, Kansas, South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. Most of the remaining states have laws that prohibit full-blown sports gambling, so those laws will need to be repealed or amended before any sports betting will be allowed. These states don’t have any bills announced that will deal with sports betting. As for Utah, that state has anti-gambling wording written right into its constitution, and it’s very unlikely that we will ever see any relaxation on what has been decades of opposition to sports betting and gambling of any sort.

States that are new to sports betting might look to Nevada for best practices since it is a mature market that has been around for many years. Delaware and New Jersey have carefully studied Nevada’s sports betting landscape and are benefiting greatly from the popularity and sensibility of their sports betting structures.

Rick Rockwell

As a longtime freelance writer, avid sports fan, former athlete, and experienced sports bettor, Rick Rockwell has risen up the ranks at GamblingSites.org to become the self-professed "King of the Blog" in his first year with the site. ...

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