Online Gambling Bill Back in Action in Michigan

by Kyle Miller

MichiganA bill that would legalize online gambling in the state of Michigan is back under consideration after being amended.

Several states have shown interest in offering online casino and poker game play within the United States. Currently, only Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware offer such gaming options online after passing legislation several years ago. Pennsylvania, California and several other states have shown interest but have been unable to pass any measure to see the gaming options begin online. A few months ago, legislation popped up in Michigan and now it seems the measure has been amended and is back on the table.

S 203 Under Consideration

S 203 is the measure being considered, having been sponsored by Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall. The bill was sent to the Senate floor back in March and was readily approved by the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee. However, once approval was given, the measure quickly lost steam and three months passed without any mention of the bill.

Just recently, S 203 was revived after revisions were made. The bill was introduced again and seems to be similar to its original form. The bill is lacking when it comes to regulatory framework but it does place the gambling regulators of the state as the responsible party for designing rules for online gaming which would of course regulate how the activity takes place.

Online gaming licensing could be applied for by commercial and tribal gaming operators who currently have licensing for casino gaming in land-based form. In the original form of the measure, the option for tribes to be able to offer online gaming was a point of contention as well as how the industry would be regulated.

Tribal Issues

The federally recognized tribes of the state were opposed to the original version of the bill. With the former version, the state Gaming Control Board would have been placed in the role as the regulator to license online gaming operations for tribal groups as well as commercial operators. This would set the tribal operators as commercial operators and they did not want that classification.

If the tribes were classified as commercial operators they would have to amend their current compacts in the state in regards to gaming, which of course they do not want to do. With the revised version of the measure, the individual tribes have the ability to self-regulate themselves in regards to online gaming operations. Yet, the existing gambling compacts will still have to be amended. On top of that, the tribes will have to be in compliance with the responsible gambling measures as well as consumer protection rules introduced by the state.

Another change to the measure includes language that will put a moratorium in place for one year towards commercial casinos who are interested in offering online gaming in the state. Regulators will also have to act within a 90 day time frame if a tribe has filed to offer online gaming.

Senator Kowall is optimistic that the bill will be successful during the current legislative session, the measure must be approved by both chambers this year to pass muster. This does not seem likely given the current legislative climate. The measure will have to gain significant support in order to be passed in the Senate. The House may also be difficult in finding support. The Governor of the state will also have to give approval and sign the measure for the bill to come law.

So, the measure has some ways to go before it can be approved and online gambling actually begin in the state. We will stay tuned to see what happens and hopefully see Michigan move forward as a potential state to become the next to offer online gambling in the United States.