In Regulating Fantasy Sports, Mississippi May Have Deregulated Actual Sports
Well, sort of. More “unbanned” than “deregulated.” Plus, in reality, until the federal government eliminates PASPA from the books, no state will be able to offer legal sportsbooks. That said, what Mississippi (or, more specifically, some sly team of legislators in the local lower chambers) did do was to strike from the record a few key portions of the state’s older Gaming Control Act, packaged as a late-added rider to House Bill 967.
What is House Bill 967?
House Bill 967 introduces a mechanism whereby the state of Mississippi grants itself the authority to regulate and tax fantasy sports leagues and services at a rate of 8 percent, which puts the upstart industry right in line with that of the state’s older casinos. The bill didn’t include much language about real sports betting, and most of the debate surrounding the proposal was centered on a curiously unsuccessful attempt by other members of congress to add a state lottery to the law.
How Did Actual Sports Betting Sneak In?
Pretty much exactly like Tom Brady, except nobody saw it coming. The defense was preoccupied, a new play got called in from the sidelines, and before anyone knew it, there was old, tenacious sports betting, laid out in the end zone making snow angels in celebration. See, when the bill was first crafted, there was no indication at the federal level that New Jersey’s PASPA challenge was going to make it all the way to the Supreme Court. When it did, House Bill 967 was pulled and revamped before being resubmitted. Since most of these elected official types don’t even bother reading the first draft of bills, it’s no surprise that they missed all of the changes in the second draft before voting in favor of it last month. Said Scott DeLano (R, Biloxi), “We did make modifications to [the] Gaming Control Act that would allow for the Gaming Commission to regulate sports betting if it were ever to be overturned at the federal level.”
What About the GAME Act?
If the GAME Act actually passes, this slippery bit of Mississippi mudslide will still set a strong precedent for sports betting states, as the GAME Act merely makes it possible for states to decide for themselves how and when to legalize and regulate sports betting. Those states still actually have to pass the requisite legislation themselves, and that may take several months if not a year or two. This is, in many ways, a preemptive strike to tamp down a favorable future in case of a favorable outcome in the country’s highest court. After all, one never knows when a new cabal of legislators will wheel and deal its way into power, and it is considerably more difficult to nullify laws than it is to enact new ones. Let’s just hope the gambit pays off.