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Mississippi ready for sports betting legalisation

Sports betting ready in Mississippi
The state of Mississippi is prepared if the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) rules in favour of legalising sports betting.

According to Mississippi Gaming Commission (MGC) executive director, Allen Godfrey, the state “will be ready to address sports gambling” immediately if the court rules in favour of New Jersey and repeals the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) 1992.

New Jersey took its case to SCOTUS after the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCCA), along with the four major US sporting leagues, filed a legal challenged against the state amending its laws to add sports betting to its racetracks.

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SCOTUS agreed to hear the case on December 4, with oral arguments presented for the New Jersey governor, Chris Christie and the NCAA.

New Jersey’s central argument is that the piece of legislation is unconstitutional, with attorneys arguing that federal law cannot commandeer states under the 10th Amendment.

While a decision on whether it will repeal the piece of legislation banning sports betting in every US state except Nevada, Oregon, Delaware and Montana, isn’t expected until later next year, several states are preparing to amend legislation.

Godfrey said the state could roll out licensed sportsbooks as soon as operators were ready to offer it due to a 2017 legislation change.

Earlier in the year, the state government passed a bill which legalised fantasy sports. But due to the amendments to the Gaming Control Act (GCA), it meant sports betting was legal under state law.

Since federal law overrides state law, Mississippi can’t legally offer sports betting services.

State senator, Sean Tindell, said the bill wasn’t intended to legalise sports betting at the time.

“We knew there was a federal law that prohibited sports betting but allowed fantasy sports gaming,” he said.

“We weren’t concerned with sports betting then because we knew federal law would trump anything we could pass.”

If the court repeals PASPA, all 21 of Mississippi’s casinos could offer sports betting services, provided lawmakers interpret the fantasy sports bill in the same way as Godfrey.

The MGC would still need to map out further regulations if the court sides with the state of New Jersey.

Mississippi isn’t the only state preparing to amend its laws, with Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and Rhode Island also gearing up for a change.

A report by Eilers & Krejcik Gaming has estimated that around 32 US states could legalise sports betting over the next five years if PASPA is repealed, which would create a $6 billion regulated industry.

While it’s not clear who the court will side with, Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Anthony Kennedy and Justice Samuel Alito appeared to favour NJ’s arguments.

“This case has very broad implications,” Pacific Legal Foundation attorney, Jonathan Wood, told Mississippi Today.

“If New Jersey wins, it means states have a lot of power to experiment on a lot of issues.

“If the leagues win, the federal government would effectively be telling states what laws their voters can or can’t pass.”