Michigan Online Gambling Rules Drafted As Stakeholders Lobby For Emergency Haste

Written By Matt Schoch on April 30, 2020
Michigan online gambling

The Michigan Gaming Control Board sent over draft rules for internet gambling to stakeholders last week, as some hope to hasten the state’s process.

The draft rules are another step in the process for online sports betting and iGaming, which are still set for an early 2021 launch in Michigan.

However, some stakeholders are pushing for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to institute emergency rules to expedite the process during the COVID-19 pandemic, which will close Michigan casinos for the entire month of April and at least parts of May.

Casinos, lawmakers lobbying Whitmer

An executive involved in decision-making for Detroit’s largest casino is among those lobbying state officials to speed up the process, as some states did right after passing legislation, according to VIXIO GamingCompliance.

“We have a great relationship with the regulator, and are working very constructively with them to try to accelerate the regulatory process through the emergency rule-making route,” Roar Digital CEO Adam Greenblatt told the publication.

Roar Digital is a joint venture between GVC Holdings and MGM Resorts International, which operates one of three Detroit casinos that opened retail sportsbooks last month right before the pandemic shut down most sports globally.

House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) is among the politicians lobbying Whitmer, a Democrat, to institute emergency rules for online gaming, VIXIO GamingCompliance reported.

It is unclear how much impact the institution of emergency rules could have to move up the early 2021 timeline.

Without ‘emergency’ rules, 2021 launch on track

The draft rules will be reviewed by Michigan’s three commercial casinos and 12 federally recognized Native American tribes with feedback requested over the next couple weeks.

Then, the gaming control board will move forward with a process that is still months from completing.

In a February radio interview with WWJ, the executive director of the Michigan Gaming Control Board laid out a timeline of a spring distribution of the rules for review.

“Then we’ll do the modifications of that,” Richard Kalm said. “It’s quite an involved process,” 

Kalm said the board recommended that Michigan’s tribes partner with entities that were already licensed in other states for a more smooth process.

He said the board was using best practices from other states that have implemented online gambling.

“We’re looking very closely at their rules and their regulations and how they conduct it,” Kalm said, noting rules from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Indiana were frequently cited during the process.

Gaming board: Gather your information

The drafts include 63 pages of internet gaming rules and 71 pages of internet sports betting rules.

In a letter to prospective sports betting and internet gaming operators, the deputy director of the gaming control board encouraged operators to gather materials for licensing, including tax returns and other financial statements.

“Providing this information to the MGCB as soon as practicable will help facilitate an efficient licensing process,” Kurt Steinkamp wrote.

The letter said applications for supplier licenses will available on the board’s website by May 15. Those suppliers include platform providers, geolocation providers, sports betting data providers, software providers, parties responsible for hosting live gaming data, and marketing service providers.

Michigan playing catch up with online gambling

States with online gambling and sports betting have salvaged a bit of revenue during the pandemic.

But when Whitmer signed expanded gaming bills in December, the process was put into motion to open retail sportsbooks by March to capitalize on the NCAA Tournament.

Of course, a whole new world this spring would render those Michigan sports betting efforts mostly moot.

After Michigan’s retail sports betting opened on March 11, the Detroit casinos were closed on March 16. All 23 of the state’s tribal casinos were closed by March 22.

With sports betting only live for six days, and most of the sports world shut down in the days before that, casinos took in $105,548 of adjusted gross receipts from sports betting in March.

The state collected $3,990 of the revenue, and the city of Detroit netted $4,876.

There won’t be any revenue for Detroit’s commercial casinos in April with Whitmer’s latest stay-at-home executive order lasting until May 15.

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Matt Schoch

A Michigan native, Matt has worked at newspapers in Michigan, Missouri and the Virgin Islands. A versatile sports reporter, Matt has covered sailing on the Great Lakes, cricket in the Caribbean, high school and pro playoffs, and the Olympics in Rio. He's also the former host of the Locked On Pistons Podcast and producer of a documentary on Emoni Bates. A former blackjack dealer, Matt has studied the industry from all sides.

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