There are few states in the US with such a deep rooted history of gambling than Mississippi. Throughout the last three centuries, the state’s name has become synonymous with gambling activities, from riverboat casinos to deep stack poker tournaments. As political parties have shifted, so did their views on the tolerance of gambling, but in the last two decades alone, Mississippi has become an enormous hub for casino style wagering activities in the United States. As such, it’s somewhat surprising that the state government has yet to address the issue of online poker laws in Mississippi.
Legality of Online Poker Mississippi
Gambling is a widely accepted activity in the Magnolia State. There are three dozen casinos dotting the map, half of which offer a live poker room. These range from riverboat gambling halls, to small gaming establishments, to major corporate casinos with luxuriant hotels and spas attached. A few of them are tribal casinos, but most are licensed and regulated (and taxed) by the state.
There is no question that the Mississippi government takes no issue with collecting tax dollars from regulated gambling activities. However, online poker is not a funding source for their coffers. There are no laws directly mentioning the legality of online poker in Mississippi. Then again, gambling legislation is open for interpretation, and there are laws that indirectly prohibit all activities that are not explicitly legalized by the state.
We generally recommend communicating with a legal authority to get a 100% accurate ruling on the question of whether online poker is legal in a particular state. With that said, we will examine the laws of Mississippi as they pertain the gambling in general to try and answer that question to the best of our educated capabilities.
Mississippi Code of 1972 As Amended
The following excerpts are taken directly from the Mississippi Code of 1972, as amended. We’ve selected only the texts that may pertain to online poker laws. Please note that some text was abridged to maintain fluency and relevancy, but does not change the meaning.
SEC. 75-76-5. Definitions
Gaming/Gambling: means to deal, operate, carry on, conduct, maintain or expose for play any game as defined in this chapter
Game/Gambling Game: means any banking or percentage game played with cards, with dice or with any mechanical, electromechanical or electronic device or machine for money, property, checks, credit or any representative of value, including, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, faro, monte, roulette, keno, fan-tan, twenty-one, blackjack, seven-and-a-half, big injun, klondike, craps, poker, chuck-a-luck (dai shu), wheel of fortune, chemin de fer, baccarat, pai gow, beat the banker, panguingui, slot machine, or any other game or device approved by the commission. However, “game” or “gambling game” shall not include bingo games or raffles which are held pursuant to the provisions of [Mississippi law].
SEC. 97-33-1. Betting, gaming or wagering; exception from prohibition; penalty
If any person shall encourage, promote or play at any game, play or amusement, other than a fight or fighting match between dogs, for money or other valuable thing… shall be fined in a sum not more than Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00); and, unless such fine and costs be immediately paid, shall be imprisoned for any period not more than ninety (90) days. However, this section shall not apply to betting, gaming or wagering:
(a) On a cruise vessel [in waters adjacent to a county where voters did not vote to prohibit it] gaming or wagering on cruise vessels…
(b) On a vessel [in waters adjacent to a county where voters did not vote to prohibit it] gaming or wagering on vessels…
(c) That is legal under the laws of the State of Mississippi.
SEC. 97-33-5. Gambling; additional fine against winning gambler for amount won
In a prosecution of a gambling or gaming, in addition to penalties elsewhere provided, the jury shall find the amount won, and it shall be the duty of the court to enter judgment against the winning party for the amount so won, to be collected and paid over as fines.
What does it all mean? Is online poker illegal in Mississippi?
The definition of a gambling game clearly depicts poker as a gambling activity. In Section 97-33-1, exceptions from gambling include only those that are “legal under the laws of Mississippi”. By Mississippi Code, only gambling that is performed on a vessel in appropriate waters, or that which takes place in a facility licensed by the states to provide authorized gambling amusements, is legal in Mississippi. Note also that the penalty for illegal gambling includes predetermined fines and/or jail time, plus the amount won (if any) from the alleged gambling activity.
By process of elimination, we would lean towards an interpretation that assumes online poker is not legal in Mississippi.
Is Mississippi working to regulate online poker?
With so much land-based (and water-based) gambling going on in Mississippi, it’s easy to assume that this state would be on a straight and narrow path towards the legalization and regulation of online poker. However, there have been no open debates on the issue and no propositions from state representatives to regulate online poker on an intrastate level.
One interesting thing that should be noted is that, despite Mississippi’s lenient approach to casino gambling, the state is one of the few US territories that does not offer it’s populace a state-run lottery. There are also no horse or greyhound race tracks in the Magnolia State. The government seems to be content with collecting its tax dollars from live casino and poker facilities, with little care for expansion. That could hinder Mississippi’s chances for online poker regulation in the near future. On the other hand, as more and more states acquiesce to the concept of intrastate online poker (and eventually federally regulated interstate online poker), as have Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey, chances are Mississippi will eventually jump onboard. Odds are in the player’s favor, but there’s no way to accurately estimate how long it could take.