Michigan has been actively seeking to expand its casino & poker industries online since at least 2016. Numerous efforts have been made, but none have come to fruition.
Michigan’s Attempts to Legalize Online Gambling and Poker So Far
To understand Michigan and its history with online gambling, we will need to take a look back and see how it all started. Efforts to legalize the industry date back to 2016 in the very least, with a massive push coming from Senator Mike Kowall making a very determinant push to legalize the industry with SB 889.
Mr. Kowall planned carefully and he planned well, but he couldn’t convince tribal operators nor land-based casinos to initiative the move. Commercial casinos, pressured by the tribes, weren’t sure if they could afford to invest in online gambling, to speak nothing of the competition that they would have invited.
Tribes on the other hand protested against SB 889 on several counts, including claims that the bill was non-compliant with two important pieces of legislation, namely the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIEGA) and the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).
With hopes for legalizing online gambling in Michigan dashed for 2016, 2017 came and Mr. Kowall was again one of the chief sponsors of a bill looking to establish reliable gaming options for everyone. In total, four new bills appeared, but none was successful, including S 202, S 203, S 204, S 205.
The Success of H 4926 and the Government’s Veto
In 2017, a new bill appeared – H 4926 sponsored by Rep. Brandt Iden. The bill took a fair while to gather momentum but by the end of 2018 it had succeeded to clear all regulatory hurdles ahead of it but it failed to win the affections of outgoing Gov. Rick Snyder.
That was a big blow for the entire industry and all the efforts that had been made so far. Many wondered if the bill would be resuscitated or whether new efforts will be made to push ahead with an online gambling bill in 2019.
New Online Gambling Bill in Michigan in 2019
On Thursday, March 7, a pair of bills were introduced in both chambers of the state legislature in a coordinated attempt to get the issue of online gambling back on the table.
Having almost succeeded once, this shouldn’t be a problem, although the new governor is a democrat with an unknown stance on the industry.
Sen. Curtis Hertel sponsored S 186 whereas Rep. Brandt Iden, the man of 2018, pushed ahead with H 4311, a house bill. Before having to worry about Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, though, the bills will have to undergo the regular scrutiny of lawmakers.
The bills outline a rather easy entry into the industry for operators, with all online gambling licenses – from iGaming to poker costing $200,000 a piece, a rather modest rate, compared to Pennsylvania where companies have to pay $4 million though they are exempt from taxes for a few months.
At this point, the bills are mostly a way to broach the topic again and try to garner some of the momentum of last year when expectations were high.
To see how this plays out, we will have to give it a few weeks. It’s worth remembering though that during that time, the Wire Act is getting closer to legalization.