Michigan To Take A Swing At Legalizing Online Poker And Gambling

April 18, 2016
Michigan To Take A Swing At Legalizing Online Poker And Gambling

While efforts to regulate online gambling appear to be languishing in some states, a new bill has popped up in Michigan.

The Michigan gaming bill, at a glance

The bill — entitled “The Lawful Internet Gaming Act,” or SB 889 — was introduced last week and will start its possible path to becoming law in the Senate Committee on Regulatory Reform. A hearing date has not been set, yet.

The bill is much like legislation that has been introduced or passed in other states, at least in broad terms.

Here is what the legislation does:

  • Allows licensees to offer online poker and casino games.
  • Puts the Michigan Gaming Control Board in charge of online gaming.
  • Allows casinos and tribal casinos to apply for a license, eight of which can be granted in the state.
  • Sets a licensing fee of $5 million, which is considered an offset against taxes paid at the start.
  • Estabishes a 10% tax on gross gaming revenue.
  • Sets a minimum age of play of 21 and older.

Full text is here.

One major difference in this bill compared with others regulating U.S. online poker and gaming? At present, it does not appear to ring-fence Michigan; it does restrict players to those states and countries where online poker and/or gambling are legal, however.

Where did the Michigan bill come from?

The bill was introduced by Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall, with no warning and no fanfare.

The fact that it comes from a person in a position of power presumably gives it a clearer path to becoming law than if it were from just a regular member of the legislature, or from someone in the minority party. However, just coming from a member of the party leadership does not guarantee smooth sailing.

It was also sponsored by Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., who introduced legislation regarding daily fantasy sports last year that made no progress.

What are the bill’s chances?

Michigan has a bit of an advantage over other states considering online gaming. The state already has online lottery, an effort that by all accounts has been a success logistically and financially.

Michigan just started working with PayPal, as well, to allow players to fund their online lottery accounts.

The filing deadline for any legislation is Tuesday, April 19; the legislature is break for the summer in June.

That gives the legislation precious little time to make it through the statehouse, especially given that gambling expansion bills are generally at least somewhat contentious in nature. But the presence of online lottery in Michigan could provide a more positive starting point than iGaming enjoys in other states.

It would be optimistic to think online gambling could make it to the finish line in Michigan before the summer. But, if nothing else, it could set the stage for future discussions in the state.

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