Legalization Of Online Gaming Remains Elusive in Michigan

Written By Steve Ruddock on December 9, 2017 - Last Updated on September 13, 2022
online gambling elusive

As PlayMichigan reported back in September, there is no shortage of bills to legalize online gambling in the Wolverine State, but there is a lack of support.

In September, State Rep. Brandt Iden introduced online gaming legislation designed to improve a different bill introduced by State Sen. Mike Kowall that’s been kicking around the upper chamber of the statehouse in Lansing since April 2016.

Iden’s goal was to make online gambling more palatable to the state’s tribal gaming operators. However, his efforts don’t seem to be working any better than Kowall’s. Like Iden, the state senator has found his attempts to bring legal online gaming to the state stymied.

Michigan is being held back by two issues:

  • Concerns over the constitutionality of expanding gambling without a constitutional amendment and voter referendum.
  • A lack of support from the state’s tribal and commercial casinos.

The compromise nobody wants

The root of Michigan’s problem is the coexistence of tribal and commercial gaming interests. Crafting legislation appealing to both camps is a difficult needle to thread.

Iden’s clarifications and concessions to tribal casino operators were designed to bring both sides to the table. Instead, the compromises seem to have driven them further apart.

The new legislation didn’t go far enough for tribes, and they continued to oppose the bill. It went too far for commercial operators, who changed from neutral or lukewarm supporters of the legislation to opposing it.

No thanks to be given

In October, Iden said he hoped to get everyone on the same page and have the bill through the House by Thanksgiving.

“Throughout the month of October, I’m hoping to gain a lot of headway,” Iden told OPR. “If I had my way, we’ll be able to get everyone to the table and put a bill together and through the House before the Thanksgiving holiday. We’ll see how achievable it is, but that’s my goal.”

At the end of the day, Iden’s self-imposed deadline came and went without so much as a whisper about online gambling.

There’s always next year

Action on online gambling seems unlikely in what’s left of 2017. Both chambers are only in session until Dec. 14, and there’s been no mention of online gaming getting another look.

That means Michigan is on to 2018. The new year, however, will bring all the same unsolved problems along with it.

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Steve Ruddock

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

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