Mississippi Poker Laws

A Guide to Poker in the State of Mississippi

Mississippi Gambling Laws

In this guide to poker in Mississippi you can first find a quick summary of the gambling history of the State. Next the question of poker’s legality is answered before providing you with details of where to play live and how online poker stands in this State.

A Brief History of Gambling in Mississippi

Mississippi has a romantic history tied with gambling thanks to the steamboats which hosted casino games as they cruised up and down the Mississippi river. At the time the area operated as a major trading hub bringing in a lot of money and these riverboat casinos became popular among residents and visitors in addition to the professional gamblers.

When the Civil War broke out the riverboats halted their operations and after the war finished religious politicians, eager to install a sense of moral decency, prohibited gambling throughout most of the State. While gambling was allowed to continue along the coast, this was effectively shut down in the 1950s. It would not be until the 1990s when gambling in Mississippi was re-launched.

The ‘Gambling Control Act’ was signed in 1990 and permitted a new wave of casinos in coastal and riverside counties. These lavish new boats now remain in permanent docks, allowing customers to come and go as they wish. The ‘National Indian Gaming Act’ of 1988 had allowed the Mississippi tribes to also create their own casinos and the first were built on Native lands in 1994.

Since then casinos have continued to flourish in Mississippi, providing a good choice of card rooms for resident poker players.

Is Poker Legal in Mississippi

The gambling law in Mississippi focuses on the wagers or bets rather than the nature of the game in question to define whether it is gambling or not. As such there is no getting around the fact that poker is considered gambling and as such is only legal in regulated environments.

Section 97-33-1 of Mississippi law states:

“If any person … shall wager or bet, promote or encourage the wagering or betting of any money or other valuable things, upon any game, play, amusement… “

Players caught competing in illegal games are liable to pay fines, normally around $500 although this can vary depending on how much the player has won. Illegal operators suffer more severe penalties although the State is notably more lenient in this regard than other Southern states.

Live Poker Options for Mississippi Players

Between the Riverboat and Native casinos there are now 17 poker rooms available to entertain players in this State. With major casino names owning sites such as the Hard Rock Casino and MGM with ‘Beau Rivage’ there are many luxurious establishments found throughout the state, particularly Tunica and Biloxi.

These poker rooms run cash games 24/7 with a wide variety of stakes and you can also find daily tournaments scheduled in most properties. The larger rooms also attract major tours to the area like the WPT and WSOP Circuit events.

With no mention of social gaming, home games are considered illegal in Mississippi. There have been very few cases of low stakes games being broken up by the authorities, who prefer instead to focus their efforts on the larger illegal operations which are run for profit. Providing you do not rake your games, the stakes are small and the game is kept between friends, you probably will not be targeted by law enforcement, although officially these games are illegal.

Charity poker tournaments and poker nights do run from time to time, covered by Mississippi’s charity gambling laws. They do require individual licenses to run legally.

Mississippi’s View on Online Poker

Despite having no direct mention in Mississippi laws, online poker is considered illegal under the existing statutes. While previous bills have attempted to legalize online poker in 2012, this failed to get to the voting stage.

Since Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware have legalized online gaming there have been further calls for Mississippi’s Gaming Control Board to look into the pros and cons this business will bring. There is a definite desire to see online games brought in although there is no indication regulation will be implemented before the end of 2014.

In the meantime players in the State continue to find games online provided by the offshore casinos, who argue their right to provide games to US players through free-trade agreements. While these sites are legal in their home countries and there is no record of any Mississippi resident being arrested for playing on them, Federal laws continue to restrict many financial transactions to these sites.

In Summary – Mississippi Poker

There is a wide choice of licensed casinos Mississippi, including some of the biggest names in the industry. These give poker players an excellent choice of venues to legally play in. There has been a lot of interest in getting online poker legalized in Mississippi and there is a good chance it will be included in the next wave of States regulating their own markets, which is not likely to be until 2019 at least.