Michigan Tries Again With New iGaming Bill
You may remember that Michigan nearly became the fifth state to regulate online gambling in late 2018, but outgoing Governor Rick Snyder vetoed the measure, meaning that state legislators had to try again in 2019.
As expected, a pair of bills have been introduced in Michigan with the purpose of regulating online gambling. The bill looks promising and has already gone through a hearing that has been deemed “positive” by industry expert Steve Ruddock of Online Poker Report. If all goes well, Michigan could join West Virginia as likely candidates to regulate online gambling and online poker in 2019.
Bills Filed Last Week
Last week, bills S 186 and H 4311 were filed with the purpose of regulating online gambling in Michigan. Senator Curtis Hertel sponsored S 186 while Rep. Brandt Iden sponsored H 4311. Under the bill, a new division of the Michigan Gaming Control Board will be created that would be tasked with monitoring and overseeing online gambling.
Under the bill, both state-run and tribal casinos would be eligible to operate online casinos and online poker rooms for a fee of $200,000. The tax rate is a meager 8 percent. Bills in both chambers are very similar, which is expected since it seems that lawmakers are looking to try and fast-track the bill.
House Bill Receives Favorable Hearing
On Tuesday, the MI House Regulatory Reform Committee held a hearing on H 4311. Industry expert Steve Ruddock of Online Poker Report reported on the hearing and called it a “productive hearing” on his Twitter.
Overall this was a productive hearing. It appears (appearances can be deceiving) the legislature is up to speed on the issue. My takeaway is that Michigan online gambling is trending positive and seems like an issue the state wants to do.
— Steve Ruddock (@SteveRuddock) March 12, 2019
According to Ruddock, all the right questions were asked during the hearing and any concerns regarding geolocation technology were addressed. During the hearing, Rep. Iden reminded the Committee that last year’s bill received overwhelming support in both the House and Senate prior to Gov. Snyder’s veto.
Iden Expects the Bill to Move Forward to Law
While we are still very early in the process, it appears that Rep. Iden is very optimistic over the prospects of the bill. He told OPR that the bill is one that has already got plenty of support in the Legislature, not surprising since the measure passed last year.
The big key to this bill passing is whether new Governor Gretchen Whitmer. According to the OPR report, Iden has been in talks with Whitmer’s staff and has what he called “positive conversations” with the staff. He believes that Gov. Whitmer’s staff will have her up to speed on the bill prior to the bill going to her for a signature.
Had you asked me even a month ago whether I felt this bill had a realistic chance of passing, I would have said no due to the legal cloud surrounding the Federal Wire Act. However, the new opinion has received multiple challenges in court and now it appears that lawmakers are moving forward with plans for regulation in multiple states, even if those plans involved a bit of legal maneuvering.
So what does that mean? It means that I believe that barring Governor Whitmer using her power of veto, Michigan will join New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Nevada in the regulated online gambling market. I don’t list West Virginia due to the fact that the bill has not been officially signed by its Governor. However, there is a good chance that by the end of the Summer, there will be six states offering online poker and five offering regulated online gambling in the United States. The big question remaining is whether those states will be forced to ring-fence their online poker rooms or if they will be allowed to join the interstate online poker network.