House Gaming Committee Chairman Richard Bennett, R-Long Beach, has commissioned a task force of experts to look at the pros and cons of Internet gambling and sports betting in Mississippi.

The group's first meeting will be in May during the Southern Gaming Summit in Biloxi. It will present its findings by the end of the year.

Bennett said this in no way endorses either form of gambling.

"I'm looking for an unbiased study," he said. It will be more comprehensive than anything he's seen on the subjects, he said, and he envisions other states using the information that is collected.

The original intent was to consider Internet gambling. The focus grew to include all forms of sports betting when, Bennett said, "a number of legislators from the Coast and other areas came to me and asked me to add that to it."

Should the Legislature decide to look at expanding to Internet gambling or sports betting in the future, Bennett said the report will be ready.

Bennett named Allen Godfrey, executive director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission, chairman of the task force. Godfrey then recruited representatives in state government and experts in businesses that deal with the casino industry to gather the information:

Larry Gregory, director of the Mississippi Gaming and Hospitality Association and former director of the Mississippi Gaming Commission

Dorothy Loggins, board member with the Mississippi Council on Problem & Compulsive Gambling

Craig Orgeron, chief information officer and director of the state Department of Information Technology Services

Catherine Price, professor in the Casino, Hospitality, Tourism Management Department at the University of Southern Mississippi

Jan Craig, associate commissioner of the state Department of Revenue

Jason Pugh, vice president of Instruction & Community Campus, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College

Michael Bruffey, Coast attorney

"Our most important role in this task force will be advisory, with data and analysis about Internet gambling," Godfrey said in a letter to task force members. "We will not be making any recommendations regarding any new legislation or regulations."

The task force will start with a study of the three states -- Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey -- where Internet gambling or sports betting are legal.

Among the things Godfrey said he wants to study are whether the software for online gambling sites works as well as it claims to, and how it is working to keep people from out of state off the sites -- something that is required by current laws. Two of the more-difficult issues are problem gamblers and underage gambling, Godfrey said.

"It will be interesting to see what other states have done," he said.

©2014 The Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss.)