Michigan is back in the game.
On Thursday, a pair of companion Michigan online gambling bills emerged. Last year, the Michigan Lawful Internet Gaming Act was vetoed at the last minute by departing Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican. Leadership has changed with the election of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat.
The measure in the Senate, SB 186, is sponsored by Sen. Curtis Hertel, a Democrat. In the House, Rep. Brandt Iden, a Republican, is behind the proposal HB 4311. Iden spearheaded the legislation for the last two years. The continued bipartisan nature of the efforts is good news. In 2018, the Lawful Internet Gaming act was approved in the House by a 71-35 margin, and it passed the Senate by a 33-5 count.
Both bills seek to legalize online casino games, as well as poker, and the legislation could lead to state gaming regulators approving online sports bets as well. Michigan doesn’t currently have any brick-and-mortar sportsbooks, and the legislation wouldn’t authorize those. A separate piece of legislation would be needed for retail books and possibly to set up more parameters for online sports betting.
The inclusion of the provision, however, could prove to be a good backup plan if a stand-alone sports betting bill has trouble passing. It could also lock in a low mobile betting tax rate.
Gaming regulators “may permit internet gaming operators licensed by the division to accept internet wagers under this act on any amateur or professional sporting event or contest,” read the legislation.
If enacted, the legislation would allow both the three Detroit casinos and as well as the tribal casinos spread throughout the state to offer online gambling. The commercial casinos would pay a 9.25% tax on online gambling revenue, which includes 1.25% to the city of Detroit.
However, it is possible Gov. Whitmer would want a higher rate, so the legislation could definitely change through the session, which doesn’t end until the end of the calendar year.
A license to offer online gambling would cost $200k, and it would cost $100k to renew. Vendors would also have to pay a fee.
“An internet gaming vendor that provides to an internet gaming operator all or substantially all of an internet gaming platform shall pay a license fee of $100k to the division at the time the initial license is issued to the vendor and $50k each year after the initial license is issued,” read a section of the legislation.
Confidence is high
In January, Iden said that the legislature was behind the idea of online gambling to the extent that an override of Snyder’s veto might have occured.
“The bills that came out of the legislature had tremendous bipartisan support, veto-proof support,” Iden said. “If we had had more time I believe we would have discussed an override. We’re going to get right back on the horse and go after [online gambling again].”
Michigan is also unfazed by the recent federal government memo on the 1961 Wire Act.
“I believe this was really set up to slow states like Michigan, West Virginia, others, that have began to take the lead on this,” Iden said. “There is no desire on my end to do that.
In a primary debate last year, Whitmer said that she agreed with legalizing sports betting in Michigan. She wasn’t asked about online gambling.