Guests and employees stand inside the sports bar at Island View Casino Resort’s new non-smoking casino that opened on Thursday, June 21, 2018, in Gulfport, Miss. The casino was expected to convert this space into their sports-betting parlor. 

People have wagered $116 million on sporting events at Mississippi casinos, resulting in $1.03 million in tax revenue for the state since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled federal law could not prevent states from allowing sports betting.

The first Mississippi casinos began offering sports betting in August. The state collected $54,000 in revenue that month. In November, $188,000 in revenue was collected.

Allen Godfrey, executive director of the state Gaming Commission, said there are still a few of the state’s 28 casinos not offering sports wagering.

Casinos pay a 12 percent tax – 8 percent to the state and 4 percent to the local government where they are located – on their winnings from the gambling games they offer, including on earnings from sports bets.

Kathy Waterbury, a spokesperson for the Department of Revenue, said individual gamblers also are responsible for paying taxes on their casino winnings.

She said a 3 percent non-refundable tax is withheld by the casinos and remitted to the state on “winnings that are greater than $600 and the odds are greater than 300 to 1.  If the winnings do not meet these thresholds, then the winnings are subject to income tax at the time of filing the annual income tax return. The winnings would also be offset by any gaming losses the individual incurred.”

In other words, it is up to the individual gambler to file winnings minus losses on their income tax returns.

Legislation to divert the sports betting revenue from casino winnings to transportation was passed during an August special session. During the special session, the Legislature also enacted a lottery and directed the first $80 million of that revenue to the same transportation fund.

Mississippi was the third state to offer sports betting after the Supreme Court ruled in May that the federal law banning all states except Nevada from allowing sports gambling was unconstitutional.

Estimates have varied wildly on how much revenue the state would receive from allowing casinos to take bets on sporting events.

While the revenue the state has received from sports betting has been modest, overall casino revenue is up for the fiscal year, which began July 1.

Through November, the state has collected $55.7 million in revenue on overall casino winnings – up 5.5 percent over the amount collected during the same time last year. Officials have attributed part of that increase to more people coming into the casinos because of the allowance of wagering on sports.

Overall, state revenue collections from July 1 through November are $2.14 billion – 2.72 percent or $56.6 million above the amount collected during the same period last year, according to information compiled by the staff of the Legislative Budget Committee. The two largest sources of revenue, the tax on personal income and the tax on retail sales, are up for the year. The casino tax collections account for about 5 percent of the total state general fund.

After recent years of sluggish revenue collections, resulting in double digit budget cuts for many state agencies, legislative leaders are hoping collections remain stable going into the 2019 session where they hope to, among other costly items, provide a teacher pay raise.

Historically, revenue collections have normally grown about 3 percent annually.

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Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.