Michigan House Passes Comprehensive iGambling Bill

Michigan House Passes Comprehensive iGambling Bill

On Wednesday, June 13th, Michigan’s House of Representatives approved a comprehensive bill designed to permit legal online gambling throughout the Wolverine State. The measure called H 4926 was originally introduced by State Rep. Brandt Iden last September, and after passing out of committee in December, it passed a floor vote in the House this week by a margin of 68-40. Commenting upon the piece of legislation’s progress, which also authorizes and regulates sports betting, Iden stated:

“Everything we do today is moving to an online platform, and that’s exactly what this does. It takes the same games that you can play inside the casino and now puts them online and regulates it from a standpoint of.. you can now do it legally.”

Following a summer recess, the Michigan Senate is expected to consider the bill in September, with whatever amendments that are then made bill having to be approved by the Michigan House floor once more before being signed off by the Governor and passing into law.

Poison-Pill Provision

Last month, the fate of H 4926 hung in the balance after the state’s tribal casinos demanded that any potential online and sports-based betting industry in Michigan should cease in the event the federal government moves to strip tribal nations of their right to offer online gambling. Whether this “poison pill” provision has since been removed from the amended version of H 4926 is unclear, although certain concessions must have been made in order to satisfy the concerns of the state’s tribal gaming interests.

Current Gambling Landscape

Online gaming and sports betting are currently banned in Michigan, although gambling is permitted at its three commercial casinos in Detroit (Greektown Casino, MCMG Grand, Motor City Casino), as well as the 23 tribal casinos and two race tracks spread out across the Midwestern state.

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In the event of H 4926 passing, all of these venues will likely apply for sports betting licenses, making a renegotiated tribal-state compact necessary before any official authorization can be made permitting them to offer online gaming and sports betting.

H 4926

H 4926 calls for a new body to be created within the Michigan Gaming Control Board called the Division of Internet Gaming, which would then be responsible for issuing online gambling and sports betting licenses, providing, of course, the board legalizes sports wagering following the landmark Supreme Court ruling in May.

“People in Michigan are already gambling over the internet, but they are doing so at risky and illegal websites,” explains Rep. Iden. “The Michigan websites will have strict state oversight, unlike the illegal and unregulated sites our resident use now, at great risk to their finances and personal information.”

Those casinos applying for internet gaming license would be required to pay a $100,000 fee for initially putting forward an application, with successful applicants subsequently paying $200,000 for the license, and a further $100,000 per year thereafter.

Online gambling and sports betting license holders would also be required to pay an 8% tax on gross gaming revenues, significantly lower than the 19% rate currently being paid by Detroit’s three commercial casinos. The city of Detroit would receive a 55% share of that amount, of which 5% would be directed towards the state school and transportation funds, and an additional 35% earmarked for the Internet Gaming Fund, the body responsible for enforcing gaming regulations.

Online Poker

Michigan already offers poker at its land-based casinos, and last month the FireKeepers Casino in Battle Creek set the record for the biggest tournament in state history after 1,287 players entered the $1,100 MSPT Main Event. It is reasonable to assume that receiving an online gaming license would therefore allow state casinos to provide their product online, too.

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One player who has already greeted the news of H 4926’s advancement with excitement is 2009 WSOP main Event Joe Cada, who also won a third career bracelet in Las Vegas this summer.

“I feel great about this bill’s passage,” said Cada. “My life revolves around poker. I live in Michigan, I’m a homebody guy so hearing about the bill is great news.”

As a keen advocate for online poker, Cada also added that he was willing to talk and make himself available to the state’s politicians in order to help advance the issue in Michigan.