Mississippi is yet another river state that has implemented riverboat gaming legislation. The state followed the structure of Iowa and Illinois to create their governing body. In addition to gambling on the Mississippi River and its tributaries, gaming is also permitted on Oxbow Lakes that border the river, in three Gulf Coast counties and in the Mississippi Sound. This all became effective as of April 1st, 1990.
The state of Mississippi permits all forms of gambling including charitable bingo. New games are subject to review and approval by the Mississippi Gaming Commission. Although all forms of gambling are legal, counties cannot automatically open casinos. They must file a notice of intent.
If no petition is signed within 30 days, the country Board of Supervisors must create a resolution approving legalized gambling within their county borders. On the other hand, if 20 percent or 1,500 registered voters of that county (whichever is less) file a petition against gaming in that area, an election must be held. This must occur within 60 days of the certified petition. The state gaming body then evaluates whether the site for the casino is too close to a residential area or church.
The Mississippi Gaming Commission comprises only three board members that serve four-year tiered terms without compensation. Commission members may only serve two terms with one member being a resident for at least five years. The Governor and the Senate work to appoint the commission members.
The Commission regulates, licenses and adopts new laws. An executive director serves full-time to administer legislature and makes recommendations to the Commission. There are many rules the Gaming Commission enforces including:
- Procedures to apply for gaming licenses
- Payment for background checks of applicants
- Size of a gaming area
- Credit and debt collection procedures by casinos
- Acceptable games
- Procedures for hearings
Gaming is only permitted by those that are at least 21 years old and on the grounds of a casino. Although local governments have little input into the issuance and gaming regulations, they can create zoning restrictions that isolate gaming to a specific area within a town, city or county.
The gambling tax structure in Mississippi is fairly standard. Those boarding a gaming vessel are charged $3.50 by the government. 60 percent goes to the state, 20 percent to the county and 20 percent to the city. Gaming establishments pay a 4 percent sliding tax on the first $50,000 in revenue, 6 percent on $84,000 and 8 percent on anything over $134,000. Local governments can impose a tax of up to 3.2 percent.
Mississippi gaming laws are similar to other boarding river states that permit land-based casinos as well as riverboat gaming. As the economy continues to decline along with the gaming industry, perhaps regulations may loosen to spark new business.