Michigan City to Penalize Illegal Gambling

Michigan City to Penalize Illegal Gambling

As a state, Michigan has been making progress toward legalizing and regulating online poker and casino games. State Representative Brandt Iden passed the Lawful Internet Gaming Act through the House of Representatives in mid-June, and lawmakers will attempt passage in the Senate in the coming months.

Michigan has grown its gambling industry over the years and seeks to legalize online gaming to compliment its land-based casino revenue. It will keep Michigan in competition with some of the top gambling states in America while showing its full grasp of the scope of gambling possibilities. As the Senate takes up the topic in the fall, lawmakers may also consider legalizing sports betting.

Meanwhile, in Lansing, the capital city of Michigan, the City Council adopted an ordinance that penalizes any illegal gambling not explicitly made legal by state law.

Local Problems, Local Solutions

According to the Lansing State Journal, the City Council voted 7-1 to set penalties for illegal gambling that can be applied on the local level. It defines gambling as “any game played for money or something of value, using equipment including dice, cards, computers or slot machines.” The city can punish the crimes by up to 90 days in jail and fines up to $500, but it can also take civil action against gambling establishments by declaring them public nuisances.

The reason for the ordinance is to expedite enforcement for gambling crimes as Michigan has only two investigators specializing in illegal gambling on the state level. Members of the council claim that the gambling businesses exploit addicts and hurt neighborhoods already struggling economically.

The only opposition came from Fourth Ward Council Member and attorney Brian Jackson, who noted the broad wording of the ordinance that will give too much leeway for over-enforcement. “The intent is one thing, but that doesn’t stop a future police chief from reading the plain language and concluding that it’s illegal to have a card game at Grandma’s house,” he said.

Speaking of Card Games

CardPlayer contacted a criminal defense attorney in Lansing to inquire further about home poker games and the chance that they could be caught up in the enforcement of the new ordinance. As the wording goes, it is a possibility.

Karen Phillips of the Nichols Law Firm noted that the ordinance is complaint-based, but this could happen to a home poker game. “Someone would have to make a complaint in order for it to be investigated and potentially charged,” she said, “It may be a slight possibility, but it’s still a possibility.” This means that the host and all players could face criminal penalties, and all poker equipment could be confiscated, including cards, chips, and money.

On the plus side, Phillips noted that poker games could be protected if an amendment was placed on the ordinance to clarify its intent, which is not to crack down on home games.

Back in the Legislature

Meanwhile, the legislature is still working toward the legalization of online poker and casino games, among other forms of gambling expansion for the state.

Michigan State Representative Brandt Iden has been working for more nearly a year to pass his Lawful Internet Gaming Act to authorize legal online gambling in coordination with land-based casinos and cardrooms. And after many meetings, amendments, and compromises, Iden was able to put his bill up for consideration in the House this spring. And it passed by a vote of 68-40.

The most recent movement for HB.4926 was its referral to the Committee on Government Operations on September 5, which a positive step toward putting before the members of the Michigan Senate for a vote. Iden predicted the bill would be considered in the fall months. He noted in June that it would be “at the top of the agenda” when lawmakers return to business after the summer break.


About Jennifer Newell

Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world as she also launches a new subscription box company and finishes her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including PokerStars.com and has followed the US poker and gaming market closely for the last 15 years. Follow Jen on Twitter

Disclaimer: The information on this site is my interpretation of the laws as made available online. It is in no way meant to serve as legal advice or instruction. We recommend that you seek legal advice from a licensed attorney for further or official guidance.

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