Online poker may not have found much traction in the Mississippi legislature over the past few years, but at least you can’t say that proponents of the game aren’t trying.
State Representative Bobby Moak (D-53rd District) has once again introduced a bill that would legalize online poker and other Internet gambling games in the state.
This is the fourth consecutive year that Moak has introduced such a bill, and the newest version is fairly similar to his previous attempts.
In the bill, known as the Mississippi Lawful Internet Gaming Act of 2015 (HB 306), Internet wagering permits would be available to gaming licensees for $200,000, after which they would cost $100,000 annually to renew.
It would also allow the state to enter into agreements with other states and foreign nations in order to share player pools, something that will likely be a key to building successful poker sites in most states.
Bill Allows for Online Poker and Other Games
In the bill, Moak writes that allowing for online poker and other games (including blackjack, roulette, baccarat, craps and slots) would generate significant tax revenue for the state and improve the local economy by creating jobs.
The bill also states that regulators should be able to prevent underage betting and ensure that games are safe and fair through an effective regulatory and licensing system.
One aspect of the bill that has attracted attention is the strong measures taken against illegal off-shore gambling sites.
The legislation would allow Internet service providers to block access to sites that weren’t specifically licensed to operate in Mississippi.
In addition, any individual found guilty of running an illegal Internet gaming site could face up to ten years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines, while the corporate entities themselves could be fined $250,000 for each violation of state gaming laws.
Bill Would Criminalize Playing on Illegal Sites
More controversially, this bill would also stick players with harsh penalties if they were caught playing on these illegal sites. Players convicted of doing so would face up to 90 days in jail and a $10,000 fine.
In addition, players could see property used to play on the sites or purchased with winnings confiscated as a result of these charges.
Such punishments simply for playing on gambling sites, even those deemed illegal, are rare in the United States.
Currently, the state of Washington is considered to have the harshest penalties for playing online poker, as it carries a Class C felony charge in that state, though there are efforts underway to reform those laws.
“I think all player penalties are misguided,” Poker Players Alliance Vice President of Player Relations Rich Muny told pokerfuse. “Player penalties wrongly shift the target of enforcement efforts from hard-to-reach offshore sites to the players.”
Mississippi was expected to release a study on Internet gambling by the end of 2014, but the results of that effort have yet to be released.
Given the failure of the last three bills and the slow movement of the study, it appears unlikely that Moak’s latest bill will find much support in the state; in the past two years, the bills have failed to pass out of committee.