Online gambling and sports betting bills resurface in Michigan

Two near-identical bills that would legalize sports betting in Michigan resurfaced on Thursday. SB 186 was introduced by the Senate while HB 4311 was introduced by the House.

Both bills appear to mirror the bills that sought to expand Michigan’s gambling industry in 2018 and if successful would create the 2019 Lawful Internet Gaming Act.

If successful, the Lawful Internet Gaming Act would establish a new division within the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) that would be responsible for regulating the state’s gambling industry.

On top of this, the bills would authorize online poker and casino gambling. Both bills have the potential to legalize online sports betting in Michigan.

The bills read: “The division may permit internet gaming operators licensed 5 by the division to accept internet wagers under this act on any 6 amateur or professional sporting event or contest.”

It is worth mentioning that the bill says the division “may” permit online sports betting and not “shall” or “will”. This would allow the division to determine whether to permit sports betting meaning there is a possibility that sports betting in Michigan may not materialize.

In terms of online poker and casino gambling, commercial and tribal casinos in the state would be able to apply for gambling licenses at a price of $200,000. In terms of taxation, revenue would be taxed at a rate of 8%.

The 2018 legislation received a significant amount of support from lawmakers but failed to become law after Michigan’s former governor, Rick Synder, vetoed the bill. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time left in the legislative session to challenge the governor’s decision. If there was enough time it is possible that the sponsors could have drummed up enough support to override the veto.

If legislation makes it to the governor’s desk this time it will be up to Governor Gretchen Whitmer to sign it into law. Whitmer’s stance on sports betting is quite ambiguous. Although she agreed with the idea of legal sports betting after the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), her own personally held opinion is unknown.

However, Whitmer held her primary victory party at the MotorCity Casino in Detroit suggesting a level of support for Michigan’s casino industry. It is also worth mentioning that the MotorCity Casino was the only casino in Detroit to publicly support the Lawful Internet Gaming Act.

Both bills are set to be reviewed by the House Committee on Regulatory Reform next week on Tuesday 12 March.

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