Real Money Online Gambling in Mississippi

Mississippi is a rather odd state as far as gambling goes, with much of the state evolving into very conservative views of gambling, while those who live along the coast and the Mississippi River taking the opposite view. Much of Mississippi is like other Bible Belt states in the Deep South, but other areas are much more like Las Vegas, with their flashy casino resorts that bring in a lot of money to the local economies and the state.

For those who are in favor of gambling, it certainly is preferable to at least have part of your state so open to gambling rather than having it so restrained throughout the state as tends to be the case in other Bible Belt states. There’s lots to gamble on in Mississippi provided you do it in approved locations, and a whole lot more that you can enjoy once you understand the limitations of Mississippi’s authority, which we will explain.

History of Gambling in Mississippi

Mississippi Online Casinos and SlotsMississippi has a very rich gambling history that goes back well before the area was settled by Europeans. The Indians in Mississippi were already keen on gambling before the settlers arrived, and betting on a particular stick ball game called ishtaboli, wagering on the outcome of this game of skill. Players would often bet all of their possessions on the outcome of a game.

The original French settlers that came to Mississippi brought their decks of cards, and the French of the day were the kings of gambling, the country in which the casino was born. They also brought over checkers and billiards, which the people of Mississippi would also bet on.

When the Spanish took over, they brought the idea of people betting on horse races, and Mississippi had its first track to do that at in 1795. Nothing was anywhere near as popular as betting on cards though, and by the time Mississippi became a state in 1817, they had plenty of gambling to start their statehood with.

As the new state grew, so did its gambling scene, where hotels were built offering things to gamble on in addition to its mild weather. By the mid 19th century, Mississippi’s gambling tourism was well underway. Riverboats also offered on-board gambling and frequent sailings to provide their patrons with the additional benefits of a trip by boat on the river in addition to having the ability to bet on things.

Several states tolerated riverboats offering gambling passing through their state on the Mississippi River, even though they did not allow it on their land. Mississippi wasn’t requiring people to take to the water to get around gambling laws, as they didn’t have any at the time, and ports of call for these riverboats were rife with gambling on land as well.

Mississippi in the 19th century was a place where people would bet on just about anything, and betting on things like checkers and billiards stood alongside playing cards or betting on the horses. Mississippi even used to host schooner races in the Gulf so that people could bet on their favorite boat.

It wasn’t until 1919 that Mississippi got its first full-service casino on the Isle of Caprice, where for a 75 cent boat ride, you could visit a resort casino that had all the popular gambling games, with dice and wheels as well as cards. The fragile environment of the island was no match for all those visitors though and it went underwater in 1932.

More casino resorts had sprung up along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast by then, offering card games as well as slots to gamble on. In this area of the state, slots were everywhere, at hotels, grocery stores, and other businesses. In the rest of the state, gambling was offered at establishments known as roadhouses that catered to white people, and juke joints for black gamblers. Mississippi at the time was the capital of segregation, which spilled over to their gambling as well.

Gambling continued to expand in the state unrestrained, although the state did criminalize gambling in general in 1942 to decide what would be allowed by way of their direction. The state approved of a lot of gambling but only on their terms. Many of the state’s slots were deemed illegal for example.

In the 1950s, complaints that Mississippi’s gambling laws were not being enforced well enough started to build, and a movement to restrict not only this but gambling in general gathered traction. They considered gambling to be harmful and managed to get this view popularly accepted for the first time in the state’s history. While religious objections to gambling are well entrenched in the history of states with such views, in Mississippi, this opposition later became consolidated and given political power and still plays a significant role in shaping attitudes today.

The pushback started in Biloxi, which was rife with both legal and illegal gambling, and a commission was formed, which condemned gambling in general as “unsavory.” As a result, the mayor pledged to crack down on illegal slot machines and fines started to be handed out.

Gambling continued across the state though through the 1960s, and in spite of public opinion shifting notably against gambling, and it wasn’t until 1969 and the devastating damage that Hurricane Camille brought to Mississippi that real money gambling was finally curtailed in a big way, putting a lot of these places out of business.

Both gambling and tourism took a big hit from this natural disaster. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the industry started to recover. The Indian Gaming Act of 1988 allowed for the building of Indian casinos by federally regulated tribes, and Mississippi figured that if the Indian tribes were going to be doing this, they may as well look to promote gambling by non-natives as well and enjoy the economic benefits that this gambling revival would bring. Individual counties used their legal power to permit casinos once again, and this led to the proliferation of casinos along Mississippi’s Gulf Coast as well as along the Mississippi Raiver that we see today.

Mississippi is the country’s poorest state, and their greater economic need together with their historically progressive view of gambling ended up being a big hit in these areas. Today, Mississippi is seventh in the country by gambling revenue, boasting over 40 million gambling tourists and over $2 billion in gambling revenue a year these days.

Mississippi Gambling Laws

Title 97 of Mississippi Code essentially makes all gambling illegal unless specifically permitted by law. Otherwise, it is against state law to “encourage, promote, or play at any game, play or amusement, other than a fight or fighting match between dogs, for money or any valuable thing.”

The law goes on to specifically ban wagering on such things, and this is in important distinction as one can bet on something without necessarily be seen as “playing” the game, such as is the case with sports betting or betting on other contingent events such as elections. Betting on dog fights gets mentioned in this part as well, presumably so that no one shall confuse this sort of betting with illegal gambling, where you can bet on these fights but cannot bet on any other play or amusement without specific authority by way of law.

The old practice of Indian stick ball also gets mentioned specifically, as well as cockfighting, betting on elections, or “any event or contingency whatever.” Indian stick ball, elections, and cockfighting all fall under betting on contingent events, although the mention of these particular forms of wagering does help illuminate the scope of the law which is to apply to all such wagering.

Aside from the curious and unusual protection that betting on dog fights receives, this law does prohibit every other form of gambling imaginable, including all of the major forms of gambling such as poker, casino games, and sports betting, in addition to any other form of betting that may be participated in. Mississippi has plenty of authorized gambling, but this limits the field to dog fights and whatever else the state decides is acceptable by way of other legal exemptions.

Mississippi laws against gambling does not even stop here, as comprehensive as this law is, and it is as comprehensive as you will ever see as far as state laws prohibiting gambling goes. Mississippi has also seen fit to specifically ban officials using public money to gamble, as if such a thing would be necessary given the act of gambling itself is illegal.

Mississippi even makes it a crime for operators of public establishments to fail to disclose details of illegal gambling to authorities, including the names of the offenders, shall be found to be in violation of the law as well. Given Mississippi’s long history of these establishments looking the other way when gambling is found to occur on their premises, the state saw fit to include this additional provision as a means of discouraging this.

Aside from exceptions designated by law, Mississippi authorities are given the right to seize all monies found to be used for gambling as well as any devices used for this purpose. Running lotteries or raffles also gets specifically prohibited, where it is also a crime to promote or advertise such events.

We might think this provision to be odd until we realize how deep the reluctance to enforce gambling laws has run in the past where there was a time where you could even take out ads in the papers for illegal gambling without consequence, so the state included these additions just in case.

Mississippi permits charitable gambling, and anything that is deemed legal under county jurisdiction. Counties may individually permit casinos or any other form of gambling that they see fit, and having gambling decided at the county level is generally not how states do this.

If you are of the belief that the people should decide these things by way of popularity and nor principle, this is actually a good way to do it, as views toward gambling may differ regionally, where they are left to decide on these things by weighing opposition toward gambling in an area, the purported costs of allowing gambling with the economic benefits, which do differ by area. This is particularly the case in Mississippi.

As far as how Mississippi law may apply to online gambling, some claim that this might be vague given that it is illegal to bet on unlicensed games, and online gambling is definitely not unlicensed, as all online gambling operators are licensed, just not by the state of Mississippi.

Mississippi law does not contemplate the possibility of people gambling in Mississippi at games that are licensed but not by the state, which online gambling permits, but the general provisions against gambling specify that all gambling not licensed by the state is illegal, which would include gambling licensed by other jurisdictions.

Mississippi not only allows real money casino gambling at designated locations, it jumped right into allowing sports betting as soon as the bill preventing them to do so was struck down, and was at the head of the pack of states that did this, legalizing it in the same year this law preventing this was struck down, in 2018.

Mississippi is not one of the states that licenses online gambling, including online sports betting, apart from what may be permitted while physically present at one of their casinos. States do not have the means to enforce any online gambling prohibitions anyway, so from a practical standpoint, their allowing or disallowing it has no impact on the ability of Mississippians to gamble online all they wish without even the threat of the potential for state intervention.

Land-Based Gambling in Mississippi

In spite of the provision that all other forms of gambling other than betting on dog fights being subject to specific approval by law, there are still laws in Mississippi that ban the practice itself. People do get arrested and convicted for operating these fights, although critics still hold that the laws are not strong enough, and dog fighting is still tolerated widely enough to have the law not prosecute these offenses with the normal commitment that is expected from law enforcement.

Mississippi might allow betting on dog fights but they do not permit wagering on animal races such as greyhounds or horses, and there are no such races that are permitted in the state, even though you can bet on these things legally now. It’s the races itself that are not permitted, not the betting, now that sports betting has now come to the state.

Casinos have now begun to offer off-track betting on horse racing held elsewhere in the country, provided that the bets are made at these casinos which are now licensed to offer bets on sports, including the sport of horse racing.

Raffles are not permitted unless they are conducted by charitable organizations in compliance with state regulations. Social gambling is not permitted in Mississippi, and given that all gambling without specific authorization under the law is against the law, home games are included, whether participation is confined to the participants or not.

States that do not permit social gambling or pari-mutuel racing tend to be on the far end of gambling prohibition, but don’t confuse Mississippi with one of these states, as their opposition to gambling is much more selective. Mississippi is almost a tale of two very different areas, the more conservative view that the state overall has versus the wide-open gambling that has been going on near waterways in the state for a long time now.

The rest of the state has been catching up a bit lately though. 2018 saw the state not only legalize sports gambling at their casinos, it was also the year where they finally decided to legalize a state lottery. It wasn’t until 2019 that the first legal lottery ticket was sold in Mississippi, but the project is now underway and in 2020 they allowed the first multi-state lottery tickets to be sold.

The fact that it took so long to pass a bill permitting a lottery in Mississippi does make the fact that this is considered a Bible Belt state pretty transparent, in addition to the general reluctance toward gambling that still weighs on the state opening up their gambling market beyond their coastal areas. The Bible isn’t seen to mean as much in Mississippi’s casino country, and the Gulf Coast and along the Mississippi River has always been quite welcoming of gambling throughout the state’s history, in contrast to other areas of the state.

It’s not that the more restricted view of gambling generally in the state did not spill over to the Gulf Coast and along the great river, but the area’s support of gambling saw it take place regardless of what the law may have been at the time, but for the last 3 decades, the law and the casinos have been working very closely together to collect the billions of dollars of gambling revenue that the state’s casinos in this area of the state have brought in.

While the coming of Indian casinos has been said to have played a role in Mississippi playing a more co-operative role in helping develop their casino market, they did not wait for the tribal casinos that the new federal law enabling them to be built. Licensing of non-tribal casinos began in 1990, taking an industry that was underdeveloped into the big time, 4 years prior to the first Indian casino in the state becoming completed.

There are currently a total of 29 licensed casinos operating in the state of Mississippi, and while the center of this casino empire is still along the coast, it has also expanded into other areas of the state, at not only tribal casinos but commercial ones built along the Mississippi River which runs through the state.

Mississippi has now achieved a pretty good balance of Gulf Coast and other casinos, with 12 along the coast, 7 in the lower river region of the state, 7 in the upper river region, along with 3 tribal casinos. The ones on the Gulf Coast are particularly impressive, being built and operated to cater to the many tourists that come to the area for fun, sun, and gambling, including the Beau Rivage, the tallest building in the state of Mississippi.

The reason why Mississippi’s casinos are located either on the coast or on the river is due to the former requirements that they all be built over water. Being on the Gulf of Mexico does leave the state prone to major hurricanes, and after Katrina came calling in 2005, the state relented and now allow casinos to be located within 800 feet of the shore, allowing for the Beau Rivage and other structures to no longer be required to be on barges, to help mitigate the potential damage from hurricanes.

With sports betting and off-track betting recently being added to the menu of the state’s casinos, together with the natural appeal that seaside and riverside casinos offer, Mississippi is well positioned to continue to enjoy the success of its gambling industry and continue to contribute significantly to both the state’s economy and the enjoyment of its residents and visitors that like to partake in casino gambling.

Mississippi Online Casinos & Slots Gambling

It’s not that Mississippi doesn’t have real money online gambling, although the state has not decided to participate in this industry as of yet. To date, there has only been one attempt to legalize online gambling in the state, back in 2012, but the bill failed to gain any traction among lawmakers and was summarily dismissed, and that was the last time anyone even tried to regulate this popular form of gambling.

This should not be surprising given that the state just got their first lottery, which generally comes decades before a state even entertains the idea of sanctioning online gambling of any sort. Mississippi did not hesitate to legalize sports betting once this became legally permissible, but they were able to segregate this to areas where casinos are permitted, and their provision of having them no further than 800 feet from the water does effectively confine it.

Online gambling, like the lottery, does not offer the opportunity to be segregated to just certain areas of the state, and therein lies the challenge. The casinos do have the ability to offer electronic access to the real money gambling they offer on-site, but this is confined to the property itself.

There is no real question that gambling at anything not specifically authorized by law is illegal in Mississippi, but it turns out that whatever Mississippi law may say about online gambling one way or another, it is a moot point in practice.

Mississippi is famous for its lack of enforcement of gambling laws at various points in the past, which still goes on to some extent in some areas, but authorities choosing to not enforce laws and authorities not having the means to enforce them are completely separate things.

Mississippi’s reluctance to license and regulate online gambling only deprives the state of the ability to take advantage of this form of gambling by regulating it and taxing it, and has no real bearing on the ability of Mississippians to gamble online all they want. There are lots of jurisdictions elsewhere that are happy to license and regulate it, and many of the sites under their jurisdiction are also happy to accept people from Mississippi as patrons.

People have been able to gamble online for real money in Mississippi since online gambling was born, and there is nothing stopping them to continue to do so all they want, even if the state of Mississippi never ends up deciding to get in on the action. The state may or not approve, but it is not their place nor within their ability to have any say in this, so it really doesn’t matter one way or the other as far as access is concerned.

Future of Gambling in Mississippi

Mississippi’s strange fetish with gambling over or near the water is one that is shared by several other states in the country, and is particularly common in states along the great river that shares its name.

This doesn’t have much of a rationale behind it, other than perhaps areas closer to water taking a more permissive view of gambling than areas in the interior do, and this is the main reason why we see what would otherwise represent an oddity.

This does serve as at least somewhat of a limiting factor today, although the great majority of the state’s gambling revenue does come from out-of-state tourists, who actually tend to prefer being close to the water as this has an appeal in itself aside from the ability to gamble.’

Mississippi could still benefit from a more consistent and cohesive approach to gambling overall, where the idea that there is something wrong with this behavior gets set aside generally.

In spite of its gambling revenue, Mississippi remains the poorest state in the nation, and while permitting more gambling won’t change this very much, their economy could use all the help they can get. While plenty of Mississippians may be offended by a much more permissive approach to gambling by the state generally, we would think that the state has an obligation to do what is best for its people overall, and would be clearly better served overall to set aside these misgivings in favor of more development if for no other reason.

This also involves matters of principle, whether public opinion alone can legitimately be used to infringe upon personal liberty, where opinions of what may or may not be suitable entertainment choices should ever be subject to the preferences of others. This is not unlike banning forms of music that most people don’t like just based upon that fact alone.

The view that public opinion is a sufficient reason to prohibit certain forms of entertainment remains influential in Mississippi, as it does in many Southern states these days, and if this is the criterion that is to be used, the views behind this need to change first before they can be set aside enough to allow for this market to not be limited by force of law.

Mississippi may have an abundance of casino gambling, but it may be some time before the matter gets thought out enough to expand this permissiveness state-wide such that gambling can expand significantly beyond the regions that it is now allowed, including Mississippi becoming involved in the online gambling market that already exists in their state but happens without their being on board and benefiting at all.

All this money now goes offshore, outside the purview and control of the state, although people may choose to pretend otherwise and think that it is up to Mississippi authorities whether or not their people gamble online or not.

While Mississippians cannot count on their state government to direct them toward real money online gambling sites that they approve, this task falls upon others, the players themselves as well as expert guides such as ourselves, who are ready and able to direct them to the best places that they may enjoy all the forms of real money online gambling that the rest of the world has to offer.

Mississippi Online Slots & Casinos FAQs
  • How long have people been gambling in Mississippi?

    Gambling in Mississippi went on long before the white man came to the territory, as the Indian tribes of the area gambled on a particular stick ball game that they invented for at least hundreds of years prior to Mississippi’s being settled by Europeans. Mississippi ended up banning this Indian gambling game many years later, and it is still mentioned specifically in state law listing banned forms of gambling.

  • How long has Mississippi had casino gambling for?

    Casino gambling may appear to be a fairly new addition to the Mississippi’s landscape, with many large resorts being built along the state’s Gulf Coast in recent decades, but casino gambling in this state goes all the way back to the 19th century. This was a time where there were no laws at all against gambling, and when laws did get eventually passed in the 20th century, they were widely ignored by authorities in certain areas.

  • What forms of gambling does Mississippi law prohibit?

    Mississippi code prohibits all forms of gambling other than betting on dog fights unless otherwise permitted by law. This is the approach that virtually all states take, seeking to make all forms illegal as a reference point which sets the stage for the authorized forms that they decide upon. Mississippi does permit casino gambling and sports betting at its licensed casinos, as well as playing the state lottery and charitable gambling.

  • Are there any loopholes in Mississippi’s gambling laws like in some states?

    Unlike in many states, who suffer from poorly written laws that may only outlaw games of chance and may not even be that clear on what qualifies as games of chance, or completely miss banning gambling on games of skill such as sports betting, Mississippi very successfully prohibits all forms of real money gambling that it does not otherwise allow. This allows them to completely control the forms that they do decide to allow.

  • Is social gambling legal in Mississippi?

    Mississippi relies on specific authorization to permit all forms of gambling, and if their law doesn’t specifically allow people to engage in certain gambling games, playing them is in violation of state law. Many states exclude social gambling that occurs between players where there is no third party benefiting from the game, but Mississippi is among several states that do not permit any of this.

  • Why did it take so long for Mississippi to finally get a state lottery?

    Given how widespread gambling has been in Mississippi during most of its history, this might make it more difficult to reconcile with Mississippi being among the last states to finally create a state lottery. Much of Mississippi’s population over the years hasn’t viewed gambling all that favorably, and this is actually considered one of the Bible Belt states who normally oppose gambling in principle, and this prevailing view served to keep the lottery away for so long.

  • What sort of land-based gambling does Mississippi have these days?

    In addition to their shiny new state lottery, Mississippi also permits betting on dog fights, betting on charitable gambling, and wagering at one of its 29 land-based casinos. These casinos offer a full range of real money casino games and real money poker, and now have been given permission to also allow for betting on sporting events, provided that the betting is confined to the premises where these licensed casinos are located on.

  • Why does Mississippi only allow casinos to be built near the water?

    Other states along the Mississippi River began their casino gambling history by only allowing them to be built over water, seemingly with the view that having them over water is less objectionable, but have generally moved away from this view as the years progressed. Mississippi still requires that all their casinos be within 800 feet of a body of water, but this is more due to the differing culture of these areas of the state where gambling is seen as more acceptable generally.

  • Does Mississippi permit real money online gambling as of yet?

    In spite of the state’s many casinos, Mississippi has retained their conservative view of gambling generally, and prefer that most parts of the state remain limited in their legal gambling choices. Mississippi regulating online gambling would require that they update their views on gambling generally, and not just in certain counties that now permit casino gambling. This could take a long time, and presently the state has chosen to not get involved in real money online gambling.

  • Can Mississippians gamble at real money online sites anyway?

    Even though it is clearly against Mississippi gambling law to gamble at real money online gambling sites of any kind, there is no way to enforce any anti-gambling law online, as players simply travel to other jurisdictions where gambling is permitted by way of the internet, completely out of the view of state authorities. We can show you the best real money sites out there that accept players from Mississippi.

Associate Writer: Simon loves to bet on sports as well as play online slots, and he has a keen eye for sorting out the honest sites from the not so honest.