A little more than two years after sports betting came to life in Mississippi, you will soon be able to place a wager on sports in Tennessee. But it comes with one major distinction: All bets will be conveniently placed online.
Sports betting is now expected to begin in November in the Volunteer State. The Tennessee Lottery’s Sports Wagering Committee approved the first three operators in the state. There is no cap on the number of sports books in the state.
In Mississippi, the state has seen a bounce back in numbers since sports were shut down earlier this year. Last month, the state saw about $3.7 million in taxable revenue as gamblers and fans welcomed sports back.
Mississippi was at the leading edge of allowing residents to place bets on sports following a 2018 Supreme Court ruling overturning the federal ban on sports betting in every state outside of Nevada. Mississippi had already passed pre-emptive legislation that would legalize sports betting should this ruling occur. As a result, in 2018, Mississippi was the only state in the Southeastern Conference footprint where legal sports betting was available.
But much like casinos, competition has emerged that will continue to limit revenue in Mississippi. Arkansas has had sports betting for more than a year and Tennessee is now coming on board.
The biggest weakness is Mississippi’s requirement that you must be in a casino to place bets, which greatly limits the pool of those who will legally bet. It may be a boom during peak times, such as the Super Bowl or March Madness, but generally speaking a person in Jackson isn’t going to drive to Vicksburg to place a bet on a random baseball game in July. They will continue to bet illegally because bookies are not going to disappear overnight.
While Mississippi made a positive first step in being ahead of the curve, all of the data shows that states need to create an avenue for individuals to bet online to generate the most revenue. In 2019, New Jersey received five times the revenue from online sports betting as they did from retail betting venues.
To continue to see revenue growth for the state from sports betting, Mississippi should follow Tennessee, who doesn’t have casinos, in permitting sports betting online or via an app if you are in the state rather than requiring an individual be in a casino to bet. If we don’t, we’re limiting the market and leaving money on the table.