With five minutes left in a three-hour public hearing in which only two members of the public had spoken, Michigan Gaming Control Board Deputy Director David Murley, who was facilitating the mostly silent meeting, hadn’t lost his sense of humor.
“Still time to call in and say long-time listener, first-time caller, here’s what I think about the rules,” Murley chuckled into the void. Although much of Wednesday’s board hearing resembled the classroom scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, with Murley cast as the homeroom teacher droning “Bueller?” over and over again while taking attendance, the open call for public comment was a required step in the state government’s rulemaking process.
The gaming board provided notice of the hearing last month, offering Michigan residents an opportunity to suggest changes to the draft rules for the implementation of regulated mobile sports gambling and iGaming in the Wolverine State. The hearing was held remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with interested parties invited to comment via Microsoft Teams videoconference or by phone. Concerns could also be emailed to the board by 5 p.m. Wednesday, one hour after the hearing adjourned.
From here, the final rules will be reviewed and certified by the Michigan Legislative Council’s Joint Committee on Rules, a panel consisting of five state senators and five representatives, before the anticipated launch of online wagering by late November. Lawmakers passed twin laws in December 2019 to legalize sports betting and internet gambling.
Only two speakers answered Murley’s repeated invitations Wednesday to “submit comments or indicate that you’d like to speak,” and neither of them concerned the draft rules. One caller expressed frustration that the state had not acted faster to put mobile gaming into effect, given the constraints placed on public gatherings and casino access by COVID-19. The other speaker asked when online poker, specifically, would be available to Michiganders.
But even though the public hearing didn’t generate any substantive changes to the draft rules, the board did compile a list of 18 planned revisions based on prior communication with gaming industry stakeholders. Those changes to the final draft include language that could make it easier for casino employees whose work does not concern online gambling to wager on their employers’ mobile platforms, a potential reconsideration of the draft rules’ definition of “affiliate marketer,” and incorporating updated standards for interactive gaming provided by Gaming Laboratories International, the board’s chosen testing services provider for online wagering suppliers that wish to operate in Michigan.
- “The board is considering revisions that would allow a commercial or tribal casino employee whose job duties do not include internet gaming/internet sports betting to wager with the operator for which he or she is employed,” reads one planned edit. “Casino employee participation in internet gaming/internet sports betting would have to be addressed in the operator’s and/or platform provider’s internal controls.”
- “The board intends to update the internet gaming rules to reflect the release of GLI-19 version 3.0,” reads the section on GLI. “The reference to ‘GLI19: Standards for Interactive Gaming Systems, version 2.0, released February 15, 2013’ will be replaced with a reference to ‘GLI-19: Standards for Interactive Gaming Systems, version 3.0, released July 17, 2020.’ Additional changes will be made — primarily in Part 3, but also in Parts 1 and 4 — to ensure consistency, alignment, and coordination with the new GLI-19 standard (for example, terminology will be updated, any duplicative rules that are adequately addressed in the new standard will be eliminated, etc.). Some minor revisions will likely be made to the internet sports betting rules to maintain consistency with the internet gaming rules.”
- “The board received multiple comments suggesting that the definition of ‘affiliate marketer’ is overly broad,” reads another possible revision. “The board is considering potential revisions to clarify scope and applicability.” The draft rules define an affiliate marketer as “a person involved in promoting, marketing, and directing business to online gaming sites.”
Board Outlines Remaining Steps
After the hearing, the gaming board’s executive director, Richard S. Kalm, released a statement detailing the remainder of the rulemaking process.
“The Michigan Gaming Control Board appreciates the feedback provided by stakeholders and the public on proposed rules for internet gaming and internet sports betting,” Kalm said. “The MGCB will consider the comments, make some proposed changes and submit the rules to the Michigan Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules and the Legislative Service Bureau for final review and certification in the next several days. Following certification, our agency expects MOAHR to submit the rules to the Michigan Legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules in October. The rules must be before JCAR for 15 session days unless this requirement is waived.
“Before online gaming can start, the agency must license applicants,” Kalm continued. “The MGCB has limited ability to license before the rules go into effect. The licensing timetable also depends on the applicants and their delivery of complete and timely applications to us. Michigan must have at least one tribal and one commercial license approved before launch, which I hope can happen by late fall.”
Earlier, during his response to the online poker question, Murley cited the November election and licensee applications as potential delays in the process.
“One, we’ll have to get the rules turned in and approved,” Murley said during the meeting. “We think we should have the rules in in October, but it will be up to the legislature to approve them. They actually have to meet and say these rules go into effect. If they don’t do that, then it could be pushed off into next year. So while we haven’t heard any negative things from the legislature — we think they’re OK with these rules — it is election season. So I’m not sure how often they’re going to be meeting between now and the election.
“Once the rules go into effect that will allow us to give licenses to both the operators and the platform providers,” Murley went on, detailing the final steps before launch. “End of November, that’s our hope. But that will, again, depend on everything getting turned in, reviewed, and approved.”
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