Michigan Takes Another Swing At Legalizing Sports Betting

Posted on September 21, 2019

Another incarnation of a previous bill to legalize sports betting in the Wolverine State has been introduced. This new Michigan sports betting bill is mostly what has become par for the course.

The pertinent thing for Michiganders is whether the bill will become law. Its introduction, along with one of its tenets, is a good sign.

New Michigan sports betting bill details

HB4916 has been introduced by state Rep. Brandt Iden to the House Committee on Regulatory Reform. While many changes are possible through the legislative process, it has all the expected trappings.

The bill authorizes both commercial and Native American casinos in the state to accept wagers on sporting events. It also provides for mobile betting.

Bettors would not have to register in-person to bet online, but they must be at least 21 years of age. Online operators must be connected to a casino in the state, however.

Licenses would cost $200,000 to acquire and renew each year at $100,000. The tax rate on sports betting revenue would be 8%.

Licensees would have one online skin to use. There are no requirements to pay royalties to professional sports leagues, but the bill does give the leagues some of what they wanted.

While operators won’t be required to purchase official data, the bill would allow leagues to request that a newly created sports betting division of the Michigan Gaming Control Board restrict wagering on events. Leagues could also request that books use official data for in-play wagers.

What’s important is the breakdown of the tax structure. That’s where the support for this bill will be made or broken.

Support for the state school aid fund written into the bill

The greatest public point of contention between Iden and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has been the school aid fund. Whitmer has frequently expressed concern over sports betting resulting in fewer dollars for the fund.

In a likely move to get Whitmer’s signature on the bill, the bill allocates part of the sports betting tax directly to the fund. Here’s the breakdown:

  • 55% to the state of Michigan’s general fund
  • 30% to the city the casino is located in
  • 5% to the state’s school aid fund
  • 5% to the state’s transportation fund
  • 5% to the state’s agriculture equine industry development fund

Whether the allocation of 5% is sufficient to satisfy Whitmer remains to be seen. At the very least, it’s an olive branch to her administration.

As the legislative process continues, the tax structure might change. It’s unknown how much input Whitmer’s administration has had in the drafting of this bill already.

While this bill is a comprehensive framework for legal sports betting in Michigan, it lacks other pieces that previous bills from Iden contained.

The big pieces of the gaming puzzle missing from HB4916

Unlike previous bills introduced by Iden, HB4916 contains no provision for online casino games. That doesn’t mean Iden has given up on those prospects, however.

If Iden is able to accomplish the goal of legalizing sports betting, it would create a path for doing the same with online poker, etc. Because of that, Iden could then have a clear path for online gambling.

Iden has said he wants sports betting in his state by Super Bowl Sunday. The introduction of this bill is a huge step in that direction.

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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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