Michigan Sports Betting Bill Introduced Ahead Of Fall Legislative Push

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The long-awaited Michigan sports betting bill was filed Wednesday, as lawmakers this fall begin the tough work on a budget and potentially face a government shutdown.

The bill would officially authorize sportsbooks for both commercial and tribal casinos in the state.

The legislation, H 4916, comes from state Rep. Brandt Iden, who is also trying to advance an online casino bill. Iden, a Republican, saw his iCasino bill clear the Legislature late last year and reach the desk of former Gov. Rick Snyder, also a Republican. However, Snyder vetoed the measure, along with other related bills, kicking the issuing to the current Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat.

The 21-page Sports Betting Act is tie-barred to the online casino proposal, H 4311, also known as the Lawful Internet Gaming Act. In other words, the iCasino bill must also pass in order for the Sports Betting Act to be enacted by the Michigan Legislature. A casino must have authorization under the Lawful Internet Gaming Act to offer online/mobile sports wagering, per H 4916.

Under the Sports Betting Act, casinos in the state can only have one individually branded sports betting platform. In neighboring Indiana, for example, the casinos get three “skins.”

The legislation explicitly doesn’t authorize the Michigan Lottery to offer traditional sports betting.

Bookies in legal jeopardy

The Sports Betting Act makes it clear that the black market for wagering on games/contests won’t be tolerated. Prior to PASPA’s demise, Americans were betting $150 billion each year on sports, according to the casino industry’s top trade group, the American Gaming Association.

The proposed law would make it so bookies could face a felony charge, punishable by up to 10 years in prison and up to a $100k fine, for running illegal sports wagering in Michigan.

The state could also issue cease and desist orders, as well as seek to obtain injunctive relief, against illegal gambling platforms offering action to Michiganders.

Online casino legislation

The Lawful Internet Gaming Act was introduced in March, but it has since stalled and currently sits in a House committee. Whitmer’s Administration said several months ago that it’s concerned that online casino gaming, specifically slots, would cannibalize some revenue from the Michigan Lottery, which offers online gambling. While iLottery and iCasino wouldn’t draw from the same player pool, Whitmer has sought the exclusion of slots from the online casino bill. She also wants a higher state tax rate.

Negotiations are reportedly ongoing behind the scenes on how to create a Lawful Internet Gaming Act that Whitmer would support. The sports betting bill calls for an 8% tax rate on licensees, lower than the 15% that Whitmer said she wants.

Timeline?

Earlier this year, it was thought that Michigan might be able to legalize sports betting so its casinos could have retail wagering during the NFL and college football seasons. With the Legislature doing some heavy lifting on a budget and finding funding for repairing state roads, one can expect the gambling expansion debate to continue through the remainder of the year, potentially with passage again late in the year.

If online casino gambling and sports wagering are signed into law by Whitmer (and that’s a big “if” at this moment), Michigan casinos could begin retail wagering quickly under emergency rules from the MGCB. There could be legal wagering in the state ahead of the Super Bowl, if the legislative push is successful.

The launch of online gambling probably wouldn’t come until the spring or summer, though others states (Iowa and Indiana) have shown that an online/mobile launch can come relatively quickly after retail sportsbooks open. It is possible that Michigan has online sports betting in time for March Madness.

H 4916’s current provisions

  • Mobile Betting? Yes
  • In-person registration required? No
  • State tax rate: 8% for commercial casinos only
  • Annual license fee: $200k initial, $100k renewal
  • Legal to bet on college games?: Yes
  • Fee to pro leagues: No
  • Use of “official league data” mandated?: Potentially, in-game only
  • Regulatory body: Michigan Gaming Control Board
Brian Pempus

Brian served as a senior reporter and online content manager for Card Player Magazine for nearly a decade before joining USBets in October 2018. He is currently focused on legal and regulated sports betting and online gaming. He's an avid jiu-jitsu practitioner in his free time.

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