New legislation could allow sports betting in Mississippi

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

New legislation in Mississippi would allow sports gambling.

It was passed overwhelmingly by the legislature last session -- with very little fanfare -- in a bill dealing with betting on fantasy sports, but the nation's highest court will decide if Mississippians can place those bets.

House Bill 967 kicked into effect July 1st, meaning you can now legally bet on your favorite players and their performance, but federal law prohibits betting on which team wins a game. 

"I think it's a pretty insignificant line to be honest with you," said Allen Godfrey, the Executive Director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission.

The State of New Jersey is bringing that issue to the Supreme Court, and Mississippi is one of five states joining the battle.

"Anything that can bring revenue into the State of Mississippi, I'm in favor of," said Democratic Representative Chris Bill, who serves in Mississippi's 65th District. "It's good legislation, I would say. And this would bring in about $4 million a year."

"That's maybe creating foot traffic in the middle of the week or on the weekends that otherwise would not have any foot traffic," explained Godfrey.

Others have come out against the bill.

Governor Bryant said in a statement he has "serious concerns about the negative effects of betting on sports".

Though he did have to approve the bill for it to pass. 

House Speaker Philip Gunn's office sent a statement saying, "The Speaker is anti-gambling in general. He has always been opposed to gambling".

"It's a state's rights issue, is what the argument is," explained Godfrey. "That each state should have the right to determine whether they want sports betting in their state or not."

The Supreme Court will hear the case in the Fall, and should have a decision by next Spring.