Mississippi still doesn’t have a mobile option for sports bettors but that hasn’t stopped the state from tripping all over itself trying to get their own
regressive tax on mathematical ignorance state lottery in place. The goal now is to sell the first lottery tickets by the end of the year and they’ve contracted with International Gaming Technology (IGT) to provide the central gaming system as well as support services. IGT will also be responsible for printing tickets.
MISSISSIPPI’S STRANGE RELATIONSHIP WITH GAMBLING
Mississippi has a strange relationship with gambling. They’ve had casino gambling for awhile having passed the Mississippi Gaming Control Act in 1990. This legalized ‘riverboat gambling’ in coastal or river adjacent counties. Very quickly, a thriving casino industry sprung forth. Beginning in 1992, the ‘riverboats’ were allowed to remain docked. The casino industry has had a rocky ride at times. Initially, Tunica was the epicenter of the state’s casino industry due in large part of its proximity to Memphis and the busy East/West traffic of Interstate 40. That changed as more riverboats were added elsewhere in the state and the industry started to boom on the Gulf Coast. The Gulf Coast casinos suffered badly when Hurricane Katrina slammed the region in 2005 with several Mississippi casinos closing in the aftermath and never re-opening. There have also been a number of casinos to go out of business along with name changes and consolidation. There is also a casino complex called the ‘Pearl River Resort’ on Choctaw tribal land. All casinos offer a similar—and extensive—gaming mix.
Today, there are approximately 30 casinos open for business and 23 offer sports betting. Mississippi was quick to implement sports betting regulation and would eventually become the third state to actually take bets post PASPA. The 2018 legislation to implement sports betting had a significant downside–the state gaming law was amended to stipulate that all betting must take place ‘in person’. There was the usual business about online gaming being ‘considered later’ which has become the weasel term for sports betting regulators when they have no intention of doing what the public wants. If you’re near Tunica or on the Gulf Coast you have a variety of sports betting options. If you’re not, you’re out of luck.
MISSISSIPPI GETS INTO THE LOTTERY BUSINESS
After all, who can resist a gaming revenue source with a ‘house edge’ of right around 50%? Not the state of Mississippi who is very tenuously getting into the lottery game. They’re going to launch scratch offs by the end of the year. Ticket drawings and the big multistate games like Powerball and Mega Millions will follow next year. IGT will take care of the technology infrastructure and actually print the scratch off tickets.
Jay Gendron, IGT Chief Operating Officer, Lottery is pleased to add Mississippi to the company’s lottery portfolio:
“IGT’s experience with providing leading technology, solutions, and services to startup lotteries is unparalleled, having helped 10 lotteries successfully begin their businesses in the U.S. since 1990. IGT will leverage our decades of experience and industry insights to help drive the success of the Mississippi Lottery Corporation, and to introduce compelling lottery entertainment throughout the State. IGT is committed to supporting the Lottery’s short and long-term growth objectives by providing customized, high-performing back-office systems, tools that foster retailer and player engagement, strategic instant ticket development and production, and technology, games, and marketing support that establishes the Lottery as a reputable brand.”
Tom Shaheen, Mississippi Lottery Corporation President, is happy to have IGT involved but remember folks–it’s all about ‘roads and bridges’:
“We are thrilled to have IGT on board with the Mississippi Lottery Corporation. We look forward to partnering with them in our effort as we pursue our mission of raising funds for roads and bridges throughout Mississippi.”
IGT is certainly a solid choice to run the Mississippi Lottery. At least Mississippi had the good sense to hire a trained professional to do it.
LOTTERY PIPE DREAMS, NOT ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Mississippi’s failure to add mobile betting options for sports betting is infuriating and unconscionable. It denies the majority of the state’s residents the ability to bet on sports through a Mississippi based bookmaker. More importantly, it stifles economic development in a state that desperately needs jobs and business investment. Instead, the state is offering lottery pipe dreams.
What has been seen in other states to proactively embrace online betting is not only strong revenue (purportedly the reason the state gets into the sports betting business in the first place) but often actual economic development. Colorado, Pennsylvania and New Jersey have seen gaming companies from out of state set up offices there. These companies are the types of businesses that offer high paying, high tech jobs that states claim they’re working their hardest to bring in. Risk management, information services, software development, that kind of thing.
The national unemployment rate in July was 3.7%. Mississippi, meanwhile, had the third highest unemployment rate in the country at 5.1%. They also have the third highest rate of incarceration in the United States. Mississippi locks up their citizens at twice the rate of Cuba. Mississippi is ranked #1 nationally by one statistical metric–they have the highest poverty rate of any US state. In 2017, nearly 20% of the state’s population was living in poverty. In 2015, a study named Mississippi the nation’s worst state in which to live. Mississippi could easily implement online gaming which would benefit the state’s generally miserable economy. Instead, they’ll presumably keep building and filling prisons and sell their huge underclass unattainable dreams of lottery riches.