This week, the Michigan House of Representatives passed the Lawful Internet Gaming Act. The bill has some sports betting language, but it is not specific enough.
The author of the bill, Rep. Brandt Iden, told Legal Sports Report that he would introduce a sports betting-specific law this fall. The new bill will include tax rates and the parameters for online sports betting.
“A follow up is required and, now that we have the votes on this issue, I know I can put forth additional legislation and have people be supportive,” Iden said.
The latest on Michigan sports betting
Iden might have the votes now, but the Indian tribes continue to oppose the legislation which may hurt Iden’s cause come the fall.
The Tribes find it unacceptable that the casinos would be allowed to continue accepting online sports wagers if the Tribes can not offer Michigan online gambling. It is an unlikely event that would require a change in federal law to keep the Tribes from participating.
The language was included in the bill to garner the support of casinos. They expressed concern at the possibility of having to cease operations after making a considerable investment in online gaming if the federal law should change.
Iden hopes to soften the language to keep the casinos’ support and earn the tribes’.
“We needed to continue this process to move forward and get the bill out of the House. It shows the support is there, and I think the tribes understand that the votes will be there whether they get on board or not. We’re willing to work on the ten percent, but they can’t continue to be obstinate.”
An integrity fee is still a possibility in Michigan
Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey are currently the only states with active sports betting operations. The national sports leagues have failed to secure an integrity fee in all three states.
Rhode Island just passed sports betting legislation this week, also without an integrity fee.
The major sports leagues are looking for a way to profit from sports betting, and their solution is an integrity fee. In reality, it has little to do with maintaining the integrity of the game and more to do with padding their bottom line. The fee is basically an extra tax on an heavily-taxed industry.
It is quite ironic that the entities responsible for limiting sports betting to Nevada for decades are now looking for ways to capitalize on an activity they vehemently opposed.
Currently, the inclusion of an integrity fee is in the hands of each state’s legislature as it works to craft sports betting legislation.
Iden indicated the new bill he plans to introduce in the fall would include language addressing the request from the sports leagues to add an integrity fee.
“I will have those discussions with league representatives this summer,” Iden said.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for Michigan sports betting
In May, it looked like Michigan sports betting bill had some momentum and was on the verge of passing. The momentum faded and legislators began asking more questions.
Iden has been working feverishly with his Senate counterpart, Sen. Mike Kowall, to answer them and get the legislation moving again.
Moving the Lawful Internet Gaming Act through the House is a great first step, but there is much work to be done. Expect the bill to face a tougher challenge in the Senate.
“I think there’s enough push (for lawmakers) because even if they don’t like sports gambling, maybe with this revenue we don’t raise taxes,” Rep. Robert Kosowski, sponsor of the legislation, said to the 13 Watchdog Team.
For now, it is a race against the clock. The Michigan legislature is on summer break until the beginning of September. Legislators head back to work ahead of what is likely to be a contentious mid-term election season. It is hard to say how the topic of sports betting will sit with voters.
All laws that do not pass by the end of the year will die. That will leave the 2019 legislature to start the process all over again.
Regardless, it is unlikely Michigan sports fans will be placing bets on their favorite teams until late 2018, if at all this year. It could very well be 2019 before the first sports bet happens in the Wolverine State.