Online Horse Wagering Racing To A Vote In Michigan Legislature

horses at a starting gate

If a pair of identical bills can find the necessary support in the legislature, the Michigan Lottery might not be the only way Michiganders will be able to gamble online.

The bills, HB 4611 and SB 342, wouldn’t legalize and regulate online casino games or poker like other bills. Rather, they seek to allow online pari-mutuel wagers on horse races; an activity that is already legal in over 20 states.

Horse racing legislation on the fast-track

Introduced earlier this month, the legislation is being fast-tracked. According to the Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association (MHHA), the House and Senate could to vote on the bills as early as next week.

In a press release from the MHHA:

“Next week the House and Senate are planning on taking up HB 4611 and SB 382, identical bills that will allow the Michigan Gaming Control Board to authorize Advanced Deposit Wagering (ADW) in Michigan. The change could bring as much as 100 million dollars in gross wagers out of shadows of the internet. This means more money for purses, more race days, more money for fairs, and more money for our colt stakes program for this first time in decades.”

The MHHA is calling on members and supporters to contact their legislators and urge them to support the bills. The casino industry is opposing the legislation.

“The special interests from the casinos are working around the clock to try to stop these bills,” the MHHA stated. “We know these wagers are currently being made, but Michigan Horsemen, Michigan Tracks, and Michigan Agriculture are not seeing any of the benefit.”

The argument for online horse wagering

The MHHA cites the following reasons to support the legislation:

  • These bills are not an expansion of gaming. It has always been legal to place a pari-mutuel wager on the results of a horse race in Michigan. This bill does allow us to modernize and keep up with technology.
  • These bills have the support of the Governor and the Michigan Gaming Control Board. The Executive Branch intended to authorize this after the re-write of the Horse Racing Act last summer, but there was a slight problem with the language. To correct this issue, the Governor’s office and the Gaming Control Board help write the bills.
  • These bills are about protecting the equine industry and agriculture. While the bills are specific to horse racing, these bills mean more money in to the Agriculture Equine Development Fund at the Dept. of Agriculture. That funding helps agriculture by incentivizing more Michigan horses and Michigan businesses.

Michigan’s shift to online wagering

It may not be a first mover when it comes to online pari-mutuel wagers, but Michigan is a trailblazer of sorts for online wagering.

Michigan is one of four states that sell lottery tickets online.

The state has also been exploring online casino and poker legalization over the past two years. The state also introduced bills (here and here) seeking to legalize sports betting in the state.

Online casino and poker legalization has run into the typical snags in Michigan. Additionally, they have to deal with balancing commercial and tribal gaming interests. This has proven more difficult than expected, and has ground online gambling talk to a halt.

If online horse racing gains momentum, it could be a shot in the arm for online gambling. Not only does it continue to normalize online gambling, but between lottery and horse racing, the casino industry might set aside their differences in order to get a piece of the online gaming pie in the state.

Photo by GeptaYs / Shutterstock.com

Steve Ruddock

About

Steve Ruddock is a veteran of the poker and online gambling media. A contributor to OnlinePokerReport.com, PlayNJ.com, USA Today, and a variety of other industry publications both online and off, Steve is based in Massachusetts.