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Mississippi Forms Online Gaming Committee

The state of Mississippi recently commissioned a task force to study the status of online gaming in states where it is legal—Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey. Richard Bennett, chairman of the Mississippi House Gaming Committee, named Allen Godfrey, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, as chairman of the eight-member commission.

The task force was formed in response to declining revenues in the Tunica/Mississippi River markets. According to the Mississippi Gaming Commission, June figures indicated that in 22 of the last 24 months, state casinos have won less money from gamblers compared to the same month in the previous year. Casinos took in $20 million, or 10.6 percent, less in May 2014 compared with May 2013. Increased competition from two Arkansas racinos along with the recession have been blamed for the industry’s downward trend, leading to the closing of Harrah’s Tunica in June.

Mississippi’s Gulf Coast gaming market has done better than the river market, but Alabama Native American gaming outlets have had an impact there.

State Rep. Bobby Moak has sponsored online gaming legislation for the past three years, and it has died in committee each year. The bill, virtually the same every year, would regulate, license and tax online gaming at 5 percent of gross revenues and would restrict online gaming licenses to companies that already hold land licenses to operate in Mississippi.

Moak has said the Mississippi gaming industry must take control of its future by at least having a regulatory process in place for online gaming—even though the Pew Center recently reported Morgan Stanley has “chopped its market projection for the U.S. online gaming industry by 30 percent, from $5 billion to $3.5 billion by 2017, to better reflect the insights we have gained following the first few months of operations in Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey.”

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