Don Best's Benjie Cherniak: Mississippi situation is “a turf war”

Don Best's Benjie Cherniak: Mississippi situation is “a turf war”

Wednesday, January 24, 2018 Posted by Michael Lawson
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Legislators in the state are calling to keep sports betting illegal - even if it is legalised at a federal level.

As news broke that legislators in Mississippi have introduced a bill to keep sports betting illegal in the state, we spoke to Benjie Cherniak, Managing Director of US-based online betting platform Don Best, for an expert analysis on the situation.

Cherniak admitted that the circumstances in the Deep South state are “peculiar and a bit confusing”, also describing it as “a turf war with competing viewpoints and ideology”.

He told TotallyGaming.com: “The Mississippi situation is peculiar and a bit confusing. In 2017 Mississippi passed a fantasy sports bill which seemingly favored sports betting as well, as the bill amended the existing Gaming Control Act so as to remove the clause that prohibits sports betting.

"So while never explicitly stating that sports betting would be permitted, those in the know generally assumed as such would be the case given that the specific verbiage prohibiting sports betting was clearly removed.

“This is where the confusion kicks in. Apparently, some who voted in favor of the new fantasy sports bill back in mid-2017 were unaware that in regulating fantasy sports, they inadvertently legislated sports betting as well. This has led to the introduction of a new bill announced last week in Mississippi seeking to ban sports betting specifically, while still allowing for fantasy sports.

"There are only two authors to the bill and it is unknown how much support they have at this juncture. Further complicating matters is that a separate bill is being proposed to set up a panel to look at sports betting over the course of 2018, so as to make recommendations in 2019.

“We now seemingly have a turf war with competing viewpoints and ideology. On the one hand the initial fantasy bill passes which strikes the passage prohibiting sports betting from law, in a manner that probably lacked the required transparency. On another hand at least a small faction are aiming to re-introduce the sports betting ban. And on a third hand legislation is being proposed to re-evaluate all aspects of sports betting, including tax rates, so as to come back with recommendations prior to any further movement.  

“In regards to implications across the US, the final piece here is interesting. Many states are keen to dance if and as the Supreme Court allows as such, starting with New Jersey. But perhaps some others states will look at the mess in Mississippi and decide to take half a step back in order to take two steps forward, forming their own committees to evaluate potential tax rates and related metrics so as to ensure that if and as sports betting makes its way to their state, the appropriate structure is in place to make it work for all parties.”

Totally Gaming says: As Benjie Cherniak illustrates with his informative, detailed explanation, the situation in the state of Mississippi is highly complex. Those who voted to regulate fantasy sports last year were apparently unaware that in doing so they were opening the door to sports betting, and are now scrambling to prevent this from happening. It’s now a case of waiting for further developments, both at national and state level.   

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