Michigan Online Gambling Almost A Reality As Lawmakers Pass Bill

If you are an online poker player in Michigan, you may have a legal option soon.

Michigan Legislators passed H 4926, or the Lawful Internet Gaming Act, and it now sits on the governor’s desk. The Lawful Internet Gaming Act legalizes online casino gaming and poker.

The week began with huge hopes that H 4926 would finally get a vote in the Michigan Senate. That optimism lessened as it got closer and closer to the final minutes of the 2018 legislative session.

In a flurry of activity and well into the evening, the bill advanced to the floor with an amendment attached. The full Senate voted 33-5 to send the bill back to the House for concurrence.

After adjourning the daily session and reconvening just minutes later, the House eventually found itself concurring with the amendment.

The bill now awaits Gov. Rick Snyder‘s signature. It seems likely Snyder will approve the bill, but it is not a sure thing until the ink is dry.

Sen. Mike Kowall, the sponsor of the Senate’s version of the bill, told Online Poker Report he is confident Snyder will sign the bill.

“I’ve spoken to him directly, I’ve spoken to his chief of staff, I’ve spoken to the person who cleans the floors in his office. Everyone has said he is probably going to sign it. I’m optimistic that he’ll sign the bill, especially with Pennsylvania having gone in that direction.”

The finer points of Michigan’s online gaming bill

The Lawful Internet Gaming Act also includes online sports betting language provided additional regulations are put in place.

Once the bill becomes law, Michigan residents that are at least 21 years old will be able to enjoy casino gambling from their browser or smartphone. Eligible players will eventually need to register with one of the state’s 23 tribal casinos or one of Detroit’s three commercial casinos:

  • MGM Grand Detroit
  • MotorCity Casino Hotel
  • Greektown Casino Hotel

A few details from the Lawful Internet Gaming Act:

  • The new Division of Internet Gaming will permit the licensing of tribes as commercial casinos
  • Online gaming will have an 8 percent tax
  • Detroit’s commercial casinos will be assessed an additional 1.25 percent for its local share
  • There will be a $200,000 license fee with a yearly renewal fee of $100,000

Michigan online gaming is still a ways away, though. It will be at least 15 months before the first online casino goes live. Look for mid-2020 before the first Michigan online casino joins the internet.

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The long road to the governor’s desk

It has been a roller coaster of a ride getting this online gaming legislation to the governor’s desk. The biggest challenge was getting the commercial casinos and the tribes to a come to a consensus.

Rep. Brandt Iden, the sponsor of H 4926, referred to the main issue contained in Sec. 16 as the “poison pill.” It basically states that the commercial casinos could continue their online gambling operations even if federal law prohibits the tribes from offering it. That contingency would have provided a considerable advantage to the commercial casinos, and the tribes didn’t want any part of it.

Iden successfully managed to get the bill approved in the House without the tribe’s support. He did, however, assure the tribes that the Senate would address the issue.

Kowall managed to get the commercial casinos to agree to eliminate Sec. 16, resulting in the amended version of the bill.

“It’s the first time I think in the history of Michigan that we had the tribes and commercial casinos come together and agree,” Kowall said.

Now, all that stands between a Michigan without online casino gaming and one with it is the governor.

Snyder leaves office on Jan. 1, 2019, when Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer will be sworn in as Michigan’s 49th governor. He has until then to cement his legacy by enacting a law that will bring much-needed revenue to the Wolverine State.

About

Kim Yuhl is a freelance writer and blogger who writes about poker culture and the online gambling industry. A part-time member of the poker media since 2013, Kim recently sold her marketing business to write full-time while traveling around the world. You can learn more about her work and travels at kimyuhl.com.