Michigan Advancing with Online Gambling Bill

MichiganThe Lawful Internet Gaming Act, proposed by State Senator Mike Kowall of Michigan, has moved to the legislative table after skimming through a committee hearing last week. SB 203 is a near repeat of last year’s attempts to make Michigan the first state to pass online gambling legislation since 2013.

Senator Kowall’s proposal lays the groundwork for a legal and regulated intrastate online gambling structure in the Wolverine State. The platform will limit gamblers to 21 years and over. Online poker has to be among the games offered, although other online casino games are also permitted. No limit on the number of licensing fees permitted is stipulated in SB 203. Both tribal and commercial casinos will be allowed to have gambling sites, with hopes that a new igaming market could be worth $300 million at maturation. The state’s land based market is worth about $3 billion if revenue from the 24 tribal and commercial casinos is taken into account.

The proposal reads: “In order to protect residents of this state who wager on games of chance or skill through the internet and to capture revenues and create jobs generated from internet gaming, it is in the best interest of this state and its citizens to regulate this activity by authorizing and establishing a secure, responsible, fair, and legal system of internet gaming that complies with the United States Department of Justice’s September 2011 opinion concerning 18 USC 1084.”

Last year, Senator Kowall was optimistic that his bill would pass, but that was not to be. This time around, he seems to be just as convinced that Michigan will have a legal online gambling platform in 2017 despite the obstacles. It should be noted, however, that this year’s prospects seem to be overall better for the bill. This year, the bill is up for a full Senate vote much earlier than it reached this stage last year. In 2016, Kowall’s bill only cleared the committee in June, thus allowing time for it to languish and finally die before the session expired.

This time around, the bill has reached the stage of a full vote much earlier, and Kowall is hoping for the event to happen before summer.

As in the case of many similar bills in other states, there is opposition to the progress of SB 203. Many believe that it does not bide well for the future of SB 203 that two Detroit bricks-and-mortar casinos are sitting on the fence regarding their support for the bill. In addition, the Gun Lake and Pokagon Potawatomi tribes have made no secret about their opposition to the legislation.

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