Michigan Online Gambling Gets Boost at Committee Hearing

The approval of online poker and gambling regulation in the state of Michigan is looking favorable following a committee hearing on March 12.

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The approval of online poker and gambling regulation in the state of Michigan is looking favorable following a committee hearing on March 12.

The House Regulatory Reform Committee listened to testimony from a number of witnesses who expressed plenty of positivity toward passing legislation entitled the 2019 Lawful Internet Gaming Act. That proposal has been introduced as separate bills in both the Michigan House and Senate.

Rep. Brandt Iden is the House sponsor of the bill (HB 4311). His colleague in the Senate who’s pushing for i-gaming regulation is Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. Both lawmakers introduced the companion bills in their respective legislative bodies last week, with Hertel’s bill identified as SB 186.

Revenue and Consumer Protection

Iden told committee members that the legislation is beneficial in a number of ways that include raising much needed revenue, protecting Michigan citizens from getting shafted at unregulated sites where many are already logging on and playing, and to remain competitive within the US gambling industry.

Representing Michigan’s 61st District, Iden pointed out that both the House and Senate voted in favor of his online gambling proposal in the last legislative session – a proposal very much the same as this year’s HB 4311 and SB 186. In 2018, the Senate voted 33-5 and the House 71-35. Those approvals went for naught when former Gov. Rick Snyder pulled out his veto stamp and used it just prior to leaving office.

Snyder exercised his veto power under the fear that online poker and gambling might be detrimental to revenue numbers of the Michigan Lottery and the state’s land-based casinos. Iden explained at the committee hearing that Snyder was wrong in his assessment and that it’s a much younger demographic who gamble and play poker online.

New Governor, New Opportunity

Snyder was term limited out of office at the end of 2018 and Governor Gretchen Whitmer is now at the helm. Whitmer hasn’t come out in full support of online gambling legislation, but neither has she spoken against it. Whitmer did, however, throw her primary victory party at Detroit’s Motor City Casino, which may mean nothing, or it may tell a lot as to the direction the new governor might take when it comes to gambling legislation.

That casino, as well as Greektown and MGM, were all represented at Tuesday’s House Regulatory Reform Committee hearing. Each casino provided witnesses who testified favorably in support of SB 186 and HB 4311.

Also called as a witness was John Pappas, who previously toiled as the executive director of the Poker Players Alliance. Pappas became an expert on geolocation technology during his tenure in that position and informed Michigan lawmakers that the know-how is there to keep away gamblers who may be located outside of the state’s borders.

No online gambling revenue will be obtained from out of staters, but it will be gleaned from i-gaming site operators who will be required to obtain a license at a fee of $200,000 the first year, and $100,000 annually thereafter. Licensees will also pay an 8% tax on gross gaming revenue.

While the DoJ’s recent flip-flop Wire Act opinion remains a possible bone of contention for Michigan’s prospects of passing online poker and gambling legislation, Wolverine State lawmakers appear ready to continue moving forward. The Iden and Hertel bills may see further consideration in due course.