Those in the know recognize Mississippi as an unsung mecca for gamblers for over two centuries: Betting had been a popular pastime since the earlies days of European colonization and therefore well before organized sports even existed.
Are there legalized sports bookmakers with, likesay, all the NFL odds, futures and props in Mississippi? You bet! (So to speak.) Mississippi is quite the pioneer in this era of state-by-state regulation of sports betting, becoming the fourth state government to enact laws allowing football betting prior to the 2018 NFL season. Nice.
Betting in Mississippi
From the earliest days of European colonization through to the modern day, Mississippi has always been a draw for gambling and betting games. The colony-cum-state has consistently been a freewheeling pioneer within the U.S. on games of chance, and the first laws regulating betting go back to 1795! The Fleetfield Race Track established in that year was among the American Colonies’ very first and was certainly number one in terms of defining the sort of legal gambling that would be allowed.
Further, Mississippi became the very first state to include a provision which *allowed*, rather than banned, betting when incorporated in 1817. Soon after becoming a state, Mississippi saw an explosion in riverboat gambling and dozens of casino hotels were entertaining passers-through, travelers, merchants and locals in Natchez, Biloxi and Vicksburg. And in the 1890s, the schooner-racing craze involved the gambling of millions of dollars into the fin de siècle period.
Mississippi became so well known as a gambling capital of the U.S. that betting games continued fairly well impeded in the Prohibition Era of the 1920s while the rest of America shut down most house of vice. Gambling providers in the state also slipped by nearly entirely unscathed in the 1940s and 50s; while law enforcement went to war against organized crime types across the country, well-established gaming operators survived the purges which exterminated gaming in most parts of the U.S.
After the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) was enacted in 1988, it became pointedly obvious that 200 years of allowed gambling could only be stopped by an act of God. Mississippi’s traditional-style riverboat gambling industry was essentially destroyed in 2005 with the touching down of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast. Most facilities were deemed unworkable after the natural disaster and thus no such casinos are open in Mississippi today. Eleven land-based casinos remain open for business in the Gulf region post-Katrina.
As for sports betting in the post-PASPA age, it’s good news, indeed. Read on for the state of betting on football in Missippi.
Football in Mississippi
Prominent and dominant in the minds of Mississippi football fans is the University of Mississippi team, a.k.a. simply Ole Miss. The Ole Miss Rebels were organized in time for an 1893 season, which would see the Rebs began a strong tradition with a 4-1 record against regional squads. However, with a few exceptions, Ole Miss tended to field mediocre .500 teams through to the post-World War II 40s.
Johnny Vaught, formerly a head coach at North Carolina, returned Stateside from service with the U.S. Navy and took a position with Ole Miss in 1946. Vaught was named head coach the following season and ultimately became known as the university’s greatest head coach ever. And why not? In his first year as head coach, Vaught got the Rebels to a 6-0 record in the Southeastern Conference, a 9-2 mark overall, and a top-20 finish in both the AP and coaches’ polls. By 1958, Ole Miss was becoming a fixture among the national polls, six times finishing in the top 15 and earning invites to six bowl games.
The Rebels went 3-0 in bowls following the seasons of 1954 to ’58, but U. Mississippi football’s real golden age began in ’59. Led by quarterback Jake Gibbs, who’d go on to play pro baseball with the New York Yankees and serve as Ole Miss baseball manager, the Rebels went 10-1 and enacted revenge against LSU in the Cotton Bowl, crushing the only team to beat them that year, 24-0. The following season, Vaught and Gibbs got the Rebels to 10-0-1 and a Sugar Bowl title. Another undefeated season in ’62 led to the bagging of another Sugar Bowl title. In all three seasons, Ole Miss was named #2 or #3 team in the AP and coaches’ polls.
Vaught continued as head coach through the 1960s, though never returning Ole Miss to the glorious heights of the late 50s. Indeed, Ole Miss’s last SEC title came in 1963. The Rebels sides of head coach David Cutliffe in the late 1990s/early 2000s saw some success, including a 10-3 mark in 2003 and a Cotton Bowl win with his Eli Manning-helmed team.
Although, as stated earlier, the focus on football in Mississippi is all about Ole Miss, the state’s other top-division football programs – Mississippi State, Alcorn State and Jackson State – are receiving some national attention in the 21st century.
Betting on football in Mississippi
With state-by-state regulation and legalization of betting on football and other sports sweeping the U.S., you’d figure a state in which gambling has been allowed for 225 years or so would be thick in the revenue-generating fray.
And sure enough, Mississippi goes down as the fourth state to regulate and legalize sports betting – after Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey. In late 2017, some five months before the SCOTUS decisions on New Jersey cases, Mississippi state legislators enacted laws which would allow for sports betting to be allowed by properly licensed outlets. As with so many states, extant gaming parlors are offered the rights to offer sports betting first, and so it was when Mississippi opened its first sportsbooks just in time for betting on the 2018 NFL season.
Despite the prescience of Mississippi legislators, certain events following the Supreme Court’s legal takedown of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act went unforeseen: Ae ESPN online reportage stated in July 2018, “The Mississippi law does not mandate that sportsbook operators pay any fees to leagues for integrity services, royalties or data.”