Michigan Lawmakers Draft New Online Gaming Bill

Michigan Lawmakers Draft New Online Gaming Bill
New draft bill puts Michigan back in i-gaming race

As Michigan lawmakers claimed their dedication to passing an online gaming bill in 2017, there was no doubt that they were serious. But complications in discussions with all parties involved, especially bridging the gap between commercial and tribal casino issues, was a huge obstacle. Other states (looking at you, California) have never been able to find common ground, and that created doubt for Michigan.

No word from bill sponsors in Michigan throughout the first few months of 2018 prompted more concern.

However, just as March comes to an end, word of progress came through a US online gaming expert that one of last year’s bills has been given new life.

A Look Back at 2017

Michigan State Senator Mike Kowall was the person who began the push for online poker and casino gams in the state. And his SB.203 made progress in 2017, passing the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee and inspiring State Representative Brandt Iden to work his own bill from the House side.

Kowall face some pushback, though, from the state’s Native American tribes who expressed serious concerns about their participation in the new endeavor. Those concerns were significant enough to derail SB.203 for the remainder of the year, though the interested parties did maintain contact and continued talks to better the bill.

Iden came up with HB.4926, which did well in an informational hearing in the House Regulatory Reform Committee but required more work to garner the support of the committee members.

But in a rather surprising late move, Iden brought an amended version of HB.4926 to that committee in December, and it passed by a 12-3 vote.

Radio Silence Ends

For the first few months of 2018, there was no word on either bill, though both remained alive.

Then came the tweets from Chris Krafcik, Gambling Compliance Research Director and insider seemingly with an ear to the ground in all states with gaming activity.

Essentially, a new version of SB.203 is now in draft form for the legalization and regulation of online poker and casino games, though it could be broadened before it is reintroduced to include daily fantasy sports and sports betting. State Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof provided input for the draft and will support the bill.

In response to tribal concerns, tribes with gaming interests will be required to form commercial online gaming entities to participate and claim licenses. And to ensure that online gaming reflects the will of the people, the bill will require that voters approve a referendum to allow online gaming.

Back in the Saddle Again

For those who put Michigan atop the list of states most likely to legalize online gaming in 2018, bets are still in safe territory.

The movement behind the scenes for online gaming has been significant. With a new version of SB.203 likely to be introduced in the coming weeks, it stands to reason that there may also be a revised version of HB.4926 to follow.

Should the legislature pass such a bill in a timely manner, the measure could possibly make it onto the November 2018 ballot for voter approval.

What’s more is that the US Supreme Court is due to rule on sports betting within the coming weeks as well. Should the decision favor New Jersey, this may inspire an expanded version of the bill that includes sports betting, and the momentum from the court case across America could push the bill at an accelerated pace.

There are numerous dominoes still being put into place with details to come. But the moves thus far from Michigan indicate the state’s lawmakers are quite serious about making online poker and casino games a reality for their residents sooner rather than later.


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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