If sports betting isn’t legal, say so
Some Mississippi lawmakers continue to plead ignorance about a law they enacted during the 2017 session that could open the door to betting legally on sporting events.
They say they were not aware when they voted for House Bill 967, ostensibly designed to legalize fantasy sports betting, that it included language for betting on the real thing, too, if the federal ban on sports betting in Mississippi and 45 other states is lifted.
They also say that if that language comes into play — which it could if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns a 1992 federal law that presently only allows sports betting in four states — there are differing legal interpretations as to what House Bill 967 actually authorizes.
If all this is true — that lawmakers didn’t know all for which they were voting, or that the language in the bill is ambiguous — there’s an easy fix. During the legislative session that begins next month, lawmakers can quickly amend the law to make it clear that only fantasy sports betting is OK.
That’s what they should do.
Mississippi already has enough gaming — both legal and illegal — that it doesn’t need to further feed what can become a destructive habit for families and local economies.
Admittedly, it would be ludicrous to pretend that sports wagering doesn’t occur in this state. There are bookies in many Mississippi towns, including Greenwood, who will help people bet on college or professional sports if they so desire. Plus, with online sports betting, anyone with access to a computer can try to outsmart the oddsmakers.
Once a formerly illegal enterprise gets sanctioned by the state, however, it just proliferates. With sports betting, that means there will be greater temptations put in front of players and coaches to accept payoffs to try to tilt the outcomes, as has happened in college and professional sports a number of times over the decades.
There are enough shenanigans that already infect the big-time college scene in Mississippi as it pertains to recruiting star athletes and keeping them academically eligible. It would be unwise to add greater probability to future scandal.