Michigan Rejoice: Sports Betting & Online Casino Could Become Law By Christmas

Posted on December 5, 2019

If you live in Michigan and new laws to legalize online casino and sports betting were on your wish list, you must have been nice this year. A pair of Michigan gambling expansion bills should become law before Christmas 2019.

According to State Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., both bills which have sat in committee since being sent over by the House have a green light from everyone involved. That not only includes industry stakeholders but Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as well.

Compromises reached in Michigan gambling expansion bills

Getting the bills approved before Christmas would be a big win for Michigan state Rep. Brandt Iden. In time for the holidays was Iden’s original target for getting the bills passed.

Iden didn’t get that “W” by being stubborn. As with most things in government, the final framework represents a compromise.

Whitmer’s point of contention all along has been that the tax rates in Iden’s bills were too low. If Iden came up too far to please Whitmer, he risked losing the support of other interested parties like the state’s casinos.

To satiate both parties, the tax rates will sit at 12% for commercial casinos and 8.75% for tribal casinos on sports betting revenues. As far as iGaming revenue goes, the tax structure is graduated.

At its peak, the top rate in that structure is 26.25%. While that’s more than the operators wanted to pay and lower than Whitmer wanted, it’s an acceptable compromise for both.

Late-year momentum propelling Michigan gambling expansion

Michigan gambling expansion legislation has had its fair share of ups and downs these last few years. Optimism for sports betting and iGaming bills passing this year was beginning to wane once again entering the final month of 2019.

Momentum for Michigan picked up recently, however. One positive sign involved several tribal casinos in the state voicing support for a sports betting bill at an Oct. 29 meeting of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Ultimately, it was Hertel’s leadership in the Senate that proved pivotal for the final push. Hertel is a Democrat like Whitmer and the governor previously worked for Hertel’s father.

“Negotiations are going well,” Hertel said. “I fully expect the bills will be on the governor’s desk and signed before Christmas.”

There are a few items to check off the list before that happens, however. If Hertel is correct, the timeline could be accelerated.

So what happens in the Wolverine State now?

After the Senate committee votes on the bills, the bills progress to the full Senate floor. Because the bills aren’t identical to those passed by the House, the House will have to repeat its process.

Once the bills clear those bars, they will hit Whitmer’s desk. If she signs them before the end of the current legislative term, they become law.

At that point, it will be the job of the Michigan Gaming Control Board to start the actual process of regulating both activities. That includes drafting and processing license applications along with certifying operators’ compliance with the law.

It’s unclear how long that will take. Even if the iGaming and sports betting bills become law before Christmas, both or either product(s) going live before Super Bowl Sunday could be overly optimistic.

Realistic timeline for legal sports betting and iGaming in Michigan

In other states, legalization to the actual rollout of sports betting has taken about three months. March Madness 2020 could be a more realistic debut for legal sports betting in Michigan.

iGaming may take longer to launch, as those offerings are less reliant upon the calendar. With some of the biggest sporting events of the year upcoming, the commission may prioritize sports betting.

Regardless, legal iGaming and sports betting now look like an inevitable situation for Michiganders. When that happens, gambling options in the Wolverine State should rival those in any other.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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