By Chris Sieroty
Posted: Feb. 22, 2013 | 2:29 a.m.

For legislator Bobby Moak, getting his bill to legalize online gaming through Mississippi’s Legislature and signed by its governor is only part of the difficulty.

Moak, a Democrat and House minority leader, introduced the legislation for the second consecutive year, and a hearing on the new bill likely will take place in a committee that rejected it last year.

But Moak told gaming executives and regulators Thursday that he’d prefer a federal solution. He spoke at a panel discussion on issues facing state legislatures at the 2013 iGaming North America Conference at Planet Hollywood Resort.

He warned that without a federal bill legalizing online gaming, it would create “a patchwork quilt of laws” in each state.

Moak said his bill has the support of the state’s land-based casinos, and he’s hopeful it will attract bipartisan support. But any gaming bills face opposition, he said, from religious groups and those focused on morality.

Still, he added, “You have to have those conversations. We can get through those issues.”

Mississippi is home to 30 land-based or riverboat casinos and three tribal casinos, according to the American Gaming Association.

Besides Moak, lawmakers in California, Hawaii, Illinois and Iowa have introduced online gaming bills this year. And Jonathan Griffin, policy analyst with the National Conference of State Legislatures, expects more to be introduced.

Griffin said efforts by Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware to legalize complete online casino gambling are motivating other states to consider similar measures. New Jersey’s updated bill should be unveiled by the end of the month, he said.

Meanwhile, Delaware expects to launch online gambling by Sept. 30, and lawmakers in Nevada are expected to remove the final restrictions preventing online gambling’s full arrival in 30 days.

Iowa Democratic state Sen. Jeff Danielson said his state needs to be aware of trends that could affect its gaming industry. He called it “an economic issue as much as a gaming issue.”

The two-day conference hosted a series of panel discussions on topics such as online marketing, customer service and responsible gaming, expanded sports wagering and Internet lotteries.

Danielson doesn’t expect a divided Congress to take up online gaming.

Caesars Interactive Entertainment CEO Mitch Garber said Thursday during a panel discussion on online gaming’s future that he expects federal legislation in five years.

Joel Leonoff, president and CEO of Optical Payments, said the growth of online gaming on a state level will create a need for a federal bill.

A lot of eyes are on Nevada and New Jersey, he said, to see if they’ll be successful.

Contact reporter Chris Sieroty at csieroty@reviewjournal .com or 702-477-3893. Follow @sierotyfeatures on Twitter.

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