Committee Moves MI Online Gaming, Sports Betting Bills To Senate Floor — Nearly Unanimously

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Last year at this time, Lucy was pulling the football away at the last second as Charlie Brown tried to kick it. But as 2019 comes to a close, the kick is up and it sure looks like it’s going to split the uprights.

The Michigan Regulatory Reform Committee met in Lansing on Tuesday morning and overwhelmingly approved modified Senate versions of bills legalizing online gaming, sports betting, and fantasy sports in the state, sending them to the Senate floor. All indications are that the bills will be quickly approved in the Senate and will gain concurrence in the House by Wednesday.

When a similar collection of bills (minus sports betting) arrived on outgoing Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk last December, he unexpectedly vetoed the package. This time around, after much negotiation back and forth regarding tax rates, it appears talk of a veto override will prove moot, as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) is apparently on board with the bills in their current state.

By the end of the week, it is anticipated that Whitmer will have approved the bills, and then it’s just a matter of how early in 2020 the people of Michigan will have access to legalized online gaming and sports betting.

Almost all in favor

Tuesday’s committee hearing moved swiftly and smoothly. Scheduled for 8:30 a.m. ET, it began at 9:03, and after taking care of other business, at 9:08 Chairman Aric Nesbitt (R) declared, “We’re moving on to the gaming package.” He proceeded to thank various legislators for their work on the bills over the past two years.

Twenty minutes later, at 9:28, Sen. Nesbitt asked, “Is there any further business?” and the meeting was adjourned.

That intervening time period was filled with a series of formalities — Nesbitt naming and describing the bills and their substitutions; a roll call of state senators voting in favor; Nesbitt declaring, “The bill is reported.”

Every single measure passed by a unanimous vote of nine yays and zero nays except for a version of HB 4307, Rep. Brandt Iden’s (R) casino bill covering amendments to the Michigan Gaming Control and Revenue Act. That one passed 7-2, with Sen. Ruth Johnson (R) saying she couldn’t vote for the bill due to a provision that alters rules surrounding political donations.

The most notable change in the bills to get them ready for approval was a lowering of the sports betting tax from 8.75% to 8.4%. This was a surprise, given that Whitmer had been pushing Iden for a tax increase — although she was more focused on the tax rates for online casino than for sports betting. Daily fantasy sports will see the same 8.4% tax rate as sports betting.

Assuming all passes as planned, Michigan will be one of three states — along with Illinois and Tennessee — mandating the use of official league data for in-game betting.

The Great Lakes State is poised to become just the fifth state to allow online poker and casino and will inflate to 21 the number of states that either offer legal sports betting or have passed legislation toward that end.

Eric Raskin

Eric is a veteran writer, editor, and podcaster in the sports and gaming industries. He was the editor-in-chief of the poker magazine All In for nearly a decade, is the author of the book The Moneymaker Effect, and has contributed to such outlets as ESPN.com, Grantland.com, and Playboy.

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