Meridian Star

Local News

November 26, 2013

Miss. lawmakers eye Internet gambling expansion

MERIDIAN — BILOXI, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi lawmakers are watching Tuesday's launch of Internet gambling in New Jersey.

    House Gaming Committee Chairman Richard Bennett, R-Long Beach, told the Sun Herald that hearings and discussions on Internet gambling are planned during Mississippi's 2014 legislative session.

    However, he predicted no action, saying he'd rather let Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware — the three states where Internet gambling is legal — work things out.

    "I don't believe we're going to have anything come out on it this session," Bennett said. "It's just too early right now," he said.

    But Bennett said he doesn't plan to wait for long. And when lawmakers do act, Bennett said he wants to license only companies that own casinos in Mississippi to provide Internet gambling.

    State Rep. Bobby Moak, a Bogue Chitto Democrat and longtime gambling legislation point man, introduced Internet gambling legislation the last two years and says he plans to try again in 2014.

    "You have to take some risk," he said.

    Moak said Internet gambling will give the casinos and state treasury a boost.

    Some websites claim online wagering is already legal in Mississippi because state legislation doesn't specifically ban it. But Allen Godfrey, executive director of the state Gaming Commission, said those claims are wrong.

    "Internet gambling is not a legal thing in Mississippi," he said.

    Internet gambling in New Jersey isn't restricted to residents, but a gambler must be in the state to wager and must be a club member of a New Jersey casino.

    Although New Jersey is ready to go with Internet gambling, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, PayPal and some of the other large companies won't allow wagers on credit cards.

    E. Eugene Johnson, senior vice president of market research and online studies for Spectrum Gaming Group in New Jersey said banks that stopped taking credit card bets in 2006, when the federal government outlawed Internet gambling, have decided not to take them now.

    In 2011, the Justice Department issued a letter saying online gambling is legal when it is allowed at the state level, but Johnson said state-by-state issues bump up against federal regulations on a number of points.

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