Opportunity Knocks For Louisiana Sports Betting As Mississippi Sticks To Status Quo

Posted on February 10, 2021 - Last Updated on February 11, 2021

More widespread online sports betting in Mississippi will have to wait.

All three bills filed earlier this year failed to make it out of committee recently. As a result, the door opens for Louisiana to capitalize.

With Mississippi online sports betting relegated to the realm of mere possibility for another year, time is even more of the essence in Louisiana. The sooner legal sportsbooks can launch in the Pelican State, the better.

The decisions of lawmakers in Mississippi can also act as a cautionary tale for the same in Louisiana. The sports betting industry in the Magnolia State is a succinct example of how to limit a market’s potential.

The latest on Mississippi online sports betting

Earlier this year, Mississippi officials like Sen. Philip Moran tried once again to expand mobile wagering. All three bills toward that end were shot down in committee, however. That means for at least the rest of 2021, nothing will change in the state in this regard.

Currently, online sports betting is technically legal but severely limited. Mississippi law restricts such wagers to casino properties. Because there’s little benefit for sportsbooks to build out these systems when bettors have to be on-site anyway, it’s just easier to only feature retail sports betting.

The bills that Moran and others have sponsored in several legislative sessions would have expanded access statewide. Now that will have to wait for at least another year. But opportunity is knocking across the Mississippi River.

Why this is a fortuitous moment for Louisiana

Online sports betting is already legal in most of Louisiana, as voters in almost all of the state’s parishes approved the activity last November. Bettors and industry players, however, await the implementation of regulations for the expansion of legal gambling.

While that’s ongoing right now, there’s no timetable for when legal online sportsbooks in Louisiana might actually start taking wagers. The clock is ticking to take advantage of the complacency shown in Mississippi, though.

When those Louisiana sports betting apps do launch, there’s nothing preventing Mississippi residents from crossing the river into the closest parish to make their bets. For many Mississippians, doing so may prove more convenient than driving to a retail book in Biloxi or Tunica.

That not only means more handle for Louisiana books but also out-of-state tax dollars for the Pelican State coffers. As lawmakers in Baton Rouge work on taking advantage of this opportunity, they can also learn from the mistakes of those across the river.

Mississippi’s hamstrung sports betting returns

Since 2018, Mississippi sportsbooks have held just $103 million. The state has collected a mere $12.4 million on less than $900 million in handle. While the market has grown consistently every year, there’s no doubt that it’s a mere shell of what it could be if online wagering were available statewide.

Compare action on Super Bowl LV to see the difference that mobile betting provides. Mississippi sportsbooks handled $8 million on the event, while operators in Iowa, where online betting is legal anywhere in the state, handled over $16.3 million.

Like Mississippi, Iowa has no major professional sports teams in the state. In addition, the population is quite sparse in many areas. It’s reasonable to conclude that if given the option to use regulated mobile sports betting apps, many Mississippians would do so.

The more accessible that Louisiana makes legal wagering, the more likely it is to capture as much handle as possible. In turn, that leads to the most tax dollars. It also means the greatest number of Louisianans are enjoying the consumer protections that regulated markets afford.

If Louisiana can get its legal sports betting market up and running with regulations that promote access, and do it soon, Mississippi’s loss will be Louisiana’s gain.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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