The goalposts continue to move toward faster implementation of Michigan online gambling.
A bipartisan bill introduced by Sen. Adam Hollier on Tuesday in the MI Senate seeks to rally a hurry-up offense during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hollier, a Democrat from Detroit, is a sponsor of Senate Bill 969. The bill seeks to launch iGaming before operators go through the full licensing process.
“This is fundamentally about revenue,” Hollier said to MiBiz.com. “Casino gaming is a significant revenue source for a variety of governments across the state, and is used for essential needs.”
It’s unclear how much, or if, this bill could fast-track the launch, which can’t occur until the rules are developed.
Online poker is included in the act and would be included in a hastened launch.
Momentum pushing up online gambling launch
Retail sports betting went live on March 11 in Michigan, a few days before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the industry.
Originally, the Michigan Gaming Control Board forecast an online gambling launch in early 2021.
Executive Director Richard Kalm said last week he was “cautiously optimistic” to have online gambling launched by the end of this year.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed expanded gambling laws in December after former Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed others in 2018.
So far, Whitmer has said she will not implement emergency rules to speed up the launch of internet gambling.
Bill: Online casinos can launch ‘without a license’
The bill aims to allow “casinos to conduct internet gaming without a license until social distancing guidelines related to the COVID-19 pandemic are no longer in place.”
The temporary licenses would be valid until social distancing measures related to the pandemic are no longer necessary. Only entities that are approved for internet gaming platforms in other states would be eligible for the conditional license.
The other sponsors of the bill are:
- Marshall Bullock (Detroit)
- Paul Wojno (Warren)
- Dayna Polehanki (Livonia)
- Curtis Hertel Jr. (East Lansing)
- Erika Geiss (Taylor)
- Stephanie Chang (Detroit)
- Jim Ananich (Flint)
- Tom Barrett (Charlotte)
- Wayne Schmidt (Traverse City)
Barrett and Schmidt are the two Republicans co-sponsoring the bill.
“I believe implementation is already moving pretty quick but anything could help,” Hertel told PlayMichigan. “In this time of tough budgets, creating new revenue for cities and schools is incredibly important. This way when you bet on the Lions, even if they lose our kids and communities win.”
The Senate Committee on Regulatory Reform will discuss the bill.
Casino closures have cost governments $100 million
PlayMichigan estimated this week that casino closures have created a nearly $100 million shortfall in budgets for Michigan, the city of Detroit, and other local governments across the state.
Through May, revenue was down 51.6% from Detroit’s casinos, a loss of $37.9 million in tax revenue for Detroit, and $25.8 million for the state.
In addition, the state’s 12 federally recognized Native American tribes shut down their 23 casinos, essential economic engines.
Online operators paired up with Michigan casinos
To go live in Michigan, online casinos and poker platforms need to partner with a tribe or a Detroit casino. The Stars Group, operator of PokerStars, is among the internet companies already partnered with a tribe.
Some of the biggest brands in online gambling have already announced partnerships. They include:
- William Hill