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Legal and Illegal Gambling in Mississippi

Gambling was popular in the state of Mississippi long before it became a state. Gambling and games of chance are a very colorful part of Mississippi’s history. Today Mississippi is one of the most popular places for tourists to gamble in the United States. Gambling has not always been legal in Mississippi, and the most recent legislation was passed in the early 1990s.

History of Gambling in Mississippi

The Chickasaw and Choctaw Indian tribes were actually the first to introduce gambling to the state of Mississippi. Long before European settlers arrived the American Indians enjoyed wagering on various sports games and other games of chance. As the state was settled by Europeans and Africans gambling on games such as checkers, billiards, and cards was common. When the Spanish acquired the Mississippi territory in the late 1700s horse racing also became a popular form of gambling. The Fleetfield  Race Track in Natchez, Mississippi  was completed in 1795 and was wildly popular. People thoroughly enjoyed the social atmosphere provided at the race track and placing their wagers on favorite horses and jockeys.

In the 1800s Mississippi’s population grew considerably and the hotels there became a destination for wealthy vacationers. The hotels in Mississippi offered many forms of entertainment for their guests, including ball room dancing, lawn bowling, hunting, fishing, sailing, and billiards. Outside of the hotels there were other gambling options. Mississippi also had gaming houses where you could play card games, slots, and billiards. There were also cock fights, horse racing, and steamboats where you could  participate in games of chance. In the 1830s legislation was passed to prohibit gambling in public places. As with any law, there were exceptions made to allow “respectable gentleman” to gamble without having to fear being arrested.

In the years leading up to the Civil war gambling by “respectable gentlemen” was well tolerated by the people so the government did not interfere. River boats were used as a means of transportation down the Mississippi River and most of them offered some form of gambling entertainment for their passengers. Shortly after the Civil War ended in 1865, Mississippi once again became a tourist destination spot. The Gulf coast of Mississippi was filled with hotels, and seafood factories. All the factories had boats called schooners, and in the summer months the factories would have races against each other for cash prizes to see who had the fastest boat.

After the first World War ended the region of Mississippi known as the Piney Woods was used to ship lumber around the world and became a very profitable industry for the state. However, in 1919 when Prohibition was enacted many of those boats were used to transport illegal liquor to the state’s many entertainment establishments. By using boats, bootleggers could use the channels and rivers along the coast to deliver their product without being stopped by the authorities.

Legal gambling flourished along the Mississippi coast in the many hotels, but also in smaller establishments that would offer slot machines as a form of exciting entertainment. Slot machines became so popular that they could be found throughout the state in businesses and even inside of grocery stores. Each slot machine in the state was taxed by the Federal and the state government. Gambling establishments began to appear throughout the state in back rooms and bars whereas before they were centrally located on the banks of the Mississippi River and the Gulf coast. When the Great Depression hit gambling was seen as a brilliant way to generate revenue.

Post-war Clampdown on Mississippi Casinos and Gambling

In the 1940s and 1950s the gambling industry grew by leaps and bounds spreading out from the Gulf coast and the Mississippi River banks. The casinos of Mississippi could now boast quality entertainment from performers such as Elvis Presley, and Hank Williams. Some Mississippians were not very happy about the spread of gambling, however, and they began to organize a movement to make gambling in the state illegal. In 1951, a Senate committee was formed to investigate organized crime in the casino industry throughout the United States. During this same time period, a group of ministers and lay persons known as the Biloxi Protestant Ministerial Association and A Group of Interested Laymen took out ads in the local newspapers pointing out how gambling in the state was in direct violation of the Mississippi law. As a result of the Senate hearings and the continued push by concerned citizen’s law enforcement officials began confiscating slot machines and other gambling devices. Individuals caught with an illegal slot machine could be arrested and fined up to $250. Confiscated slot machines were dumped into the Back Bay, and many arrests were made. Prior to this time, there were laws in place, but they were not enforced as long as no one complained and there was money to be made.

1990 Sees Legalised Casinos Return

Through the 1960s back room gambling remained, and there were many clubs along the coast that still offered slot machines, roulette wheels, and other games of chance. In 1969, Hurricane Camille effectively destroyed most of the gambling industry on the Mississippi coast. In the late 1980s many states were crafting legislation to allow legalized lotteries. Mississippi never did approve a state lottery, but on June 29, 1990, the Mississippi state legislature passed the Mississippi Gaming Control Act. This act allowed for casino gambling in counties along the Gulf Coast, and the Mississippi River provided that the voters of those counties did not object.

Mississippi Casinos Today

Today, there are seven counties in Mississippi that allow gambling, and there are approximately 30 casinos operating in the state. Many of these casinos are just as popular as the ones you might find in Nevada. In fact, Mississippi casinos generate nearly two billion dollars in gambling winnings each year! Many of the casinos in Mississippi were damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, so many of the casinos open now are new. The rebuilding of casinos in Mississippi played a huge role in reviving both tourism and the economy. The prospects for the casino industry in Mississippi continue to look bright and much more new growth is expected in the coming years.

Online Casinos and Online Gambling in Mississippi

Mississippi does not have any laws against online casinos and gambling, therefore any of the US sites recommended on this site are perfectly fine for all Mississipi residents to play in.

Mike Scofield

CEO & Casino Expert

Mike Scofield is a casino expert and the CEO of Online-Casinos.co.uk. Before establishing the company, Mike worked in the marketing department of several land-based and online casinos.

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