Michigan Now Has An Online Gambling Bill, But What’s Next?

April 28, 2016
Michigan Now Has An Online Gambling Bill, But What’s Next?

Precious few states have even introduced bills legalizing online gambling, which is why Michigan joining their ranks with a bill earlier this month was a positive development.

But since the bill came almost out of nowhere, its chances moving forward are virtually unknown.

So what’s next for the Michigan online gambling bill, and what are its odds of making it out of the legislature?

Passing an online gambling bill on the first try is a tough sell

The first bit of analysis is likely not welcome news for Michiganders hoping to play online poker in the near future. Simply put, getting an online gambling bill passed on the first attempt has been tough to do in nearly any state of late.

Ever since the first online gambling bills became law in New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware, other states have been taking it slow on iGaming bills:

  • California has been working on the issue for about a decade (although it made some progress this week).
  • New York has introduced bills for several years, with little progress to be shown for it.
  • Pennsylvania appeared to have a real chance to get legislation passed last year before progress slowed.

And, that’s pretty much the list of states where online gaming has been seriously considered. Will Michigan be any different? While there are reasons to think so, it’s presumptuous to think online gaming will be passed in 2016, when it has never been on the legislature’s agenda previously.

How much time to get an iGaming bill passed?

The legislative calendar doesn’t look like it’s going to work in the bill’s favor.

The bill was introduced on April 14th. The legislature is set to take a lengthy break after the middle of June, with limited session time again until September.

Even though the legislature doesn’t technically adjourn until December, there are just 42 days when the legislature will be in session between now and the end of the year.

Seeing as the bill hasn’t even been scheduled for its first committee hearing, getting a bill through both chambers if it’s not a priority might seem like a stretch. But, a lot could happen between now and the end of the year.

There had been at least a chance that the bill would be a part of the budget, but the House version of a spending plan does not appear to count on online gambling for revenue.

There’s not much moral grounds to oppose online gambling in Michigan

Michigan already has widespread gambling available, from casinos, to horse tracks, to the lottery (more on this below).

So the moral arguments that more gambling is bad would ring pretty hollow, at this point, in Michigan.

Given that gambling is easily available to just about every adult in the state, arguing that online gambling would create a new societal ill is a stretch.

Michigan’s online lottery is a good starting point

The online gambling bill in the state has an advantage that it doesn’t in other states: There’s already an online lottery in Michigan.

While the logistics of implementing online gambling regulation and lottery are not identical, they do have similar starting points of requiring age verification and geolocation.

These are not entirely new concepts for the state legislature, and the Michigan Lottery has proven that the technology works.

The online lottery is also generating tens of millions of dollars for the state, without simply cannibalizing the core lottery business. Online gambling and poker, as an even more differentiated product, would simply add more to the state coffers.

It all adds up to Michigan coming from a wholly different starting point than states that have no online gaming experience at all.

Conclusion: 2016 is optimistic, 2017 is realistic

Given all of the variables, is it possible that Michigan passes an online gambling bill this year? Sure. Is it likely? Probably not.

A more likely scenario involves lawmakers and key stakeholders talking over the issue in hearings this year before tackling the subject more seriously next year.

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