Michigan Racing To Be First In The Midwest To Offer Sports Betting

Written By Kim Yuhl on May 18, 2018 - Last Updated on September 13, 2022
NASCAR race at Michigan Speedway

Yes. No. Well, maybe.

It has been a rollercoaster of a ride for Michigan online gaming and sports betting legislation in recent weeks.

The month began with positive momentum in the Michigan House of Representatives. Rep. Brandt Iden was sure he had the votes to pass legislation through the House. He worked tirelessly to gather support for H 4926 on the House floor. In the end, Iden failed to secure enough votes.

Once he realized he did not have the votes, Iden set a new goal of passing the bill before the legislature adjourns for the summer on June 21.

“I don’t want anyone to feel rush or pressured,” Iden said. “I want to make sure they have all the info they need and are comfortable with the constitutionality of it going forward. The goal is still to get this on the governor’s desk this year.”

The pressure is on to pass sports betting legislation in Michigan

Now that the Supreme Court has cleared the way for legalized sports betting, there is a new sense of urgency behind the legislation that had the luxury of time before.

Iden has gone from no pressure last week to let’s get there first.

“If we beat Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana, we’re going to have people coming to Michigan for that very reason,” said Iden to the Detroit News. “They’re going to eat at our restaurants, be in our downtown. There’s definitely a benefit to move [sic] quickly.”

State Sen. Mike Kowall is also pushing for legislation. Last year, he sponsored a law that made it through the committee process but was did not get a floor vote.

The Detroit Free Press reports that there are currently eight active gambling expansion bills. Some include legalizing sports betting and fantasy sports wagers.

Four bills have made it out of committee but none have made it to the floor of the House of Representatives or the Senate, according to the report.

Three of the other four bills discuss legalizing sports betting under the Michigan lottery. Those bills have not had committee hearings yet.

A few complications stand in sports betting’s way

There are 23 tribal casinos in Michigan. The tribes have resisted early attempts at legislation, which will most likely require a renegotiation of their compact with the state.

It was much easier for the tribes to take a harder line against the legislation when legalizing sports betting was still hypothetical. Now that it is a reality and a significant revenue stream is available, negotiations should speed up.

Iden realizes to secure votes he will have to get the tribes on board. In discussing the tribes, Iden said they just want “a level playing field for everyone in the market, and I fully understand that.”

Another matter likely to come up in the discussion is a potential conflict of interest between two casino owners and their families that own professional sports teams.

The Ilitch family owns the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings. Marian Ilitch, who is not involved in the operation of the sports teams owns MotorCity Casino. Dan Gilbert owns both the Cleveland Cavaliers and Greektown Casino.

It seems likely that the national sports leagues will weigh in on the matter. Currently, most are pushing for a federal approach to sports betting, rather than state by state. They have been vocal proponents of including an integrity fee into legislation. Although, there is not a clear understanding of what that integrity fee provides.

Is legislation possible in 2018?

Besides the complications listed above, the country will be entering what is likely to be a heated midterm election season.

There are some legislators that are ecstatic at the possibility of being first in the region to accept sports wagers. There are more that have yet to take a position. The constitutionality of sports betting legislation is still a topic that some legislators haven’t reconciled.

Iden and Kowall have taken up the cause to educate their colleagues, negotiate with the tribes, and to address ongoing questions surrounding the legislation.

The two have their work cut out for them. The legislature’s summer break is looming, and they return to an election season in full swing.

Photo by Action Sports Photography / Shutterstock.com

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Kim Yuhl

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.

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