In an event that occurred rapidly (and Poker News Daily actually resisted reporting on until it was a done deal), the Michigan General Assembly passed legislation that would regulate online gaming and poker within the borders of the Wolverine State.
On Thursday, the Senate Approved…
In what was a late-night vote on Thursday evening, the Michigan legislature was the first to pull the trigger. Taking up discussion on House Bill 4926, the Michigan Senate passed the bill through their chamber by a resounding 33-5 vote. Some of the highlights of HB 4926 were:
1. Authorization for online casino gaming and poker.
2. A tax rate of 8% (plus a 1.25% tax for Detroit from commercial operators)
3. $200,000 initial licensing fee, $100,000 annual renewal
4. Licenses open to both commercial and tribal gaming operations
While these are excellent regulations, one thing was left out: sports betting. Instead of folding in legislation for sports betting along with the bill, Michigan legislators decided to wait until it was fully discussed by the appropriate people on the Michigan Gaming Control Board. There is also some discussion of the time frame for the opening of the Michigan online gaming industry. It would be at least 15 months before anything would go live.
On Friday, the House Joined the Senate…
The Senate vote came so late on Thursday that the House had already adjourned for the evening, but they picked up discussion on HB 4926 immediately on Friday morning. By noon, the House had completed their debate and voted by a 71-35 margin to pass the law through. It is now on its way to Governor Rick Snyder, who is in his final days as the head of Michigan’s state government. Should Snyder sign HB 4926, Michigan would then join Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania in the “online gaming” club in the States of America.
Why the Rush? And Why Not Sports Betting?
Taking the second question first, the regulations on sports betting will be created by the very division that will be created under HB 4926. Under the Internet Division of the Michigan Gaming Control Board, online sports betting would have to create the rules, according to the Detroit News. Once HB 4926 is signed, the MGCB has been instructed to put together new rules covering all online gaming, including sports betting.
And why is this all happening now? First, the work on putting together the legislation was fully done during this session of the Michigan legislature. With the end of this session of the legislature coming, any bill that hadn’t been passed would officially “die.” That means that online gaming and poker advocates would have had to go back to Square One regarding their efforts.
Second, the actions in the federal government have Michigan and several other states a bit worried. As we reported here yesterday, new legislation from Utah Senator Orrin Hatch and New York Senator Chuck Schumer are looking to exercise regulation over the sports betting industry and close out online gaming and poker loopholes. Add in the constant threat from the U. S. Department of Justice of overturning their interpretation of the Wire Act from 2011 and many states are accelerating their plans for online gaming to be “grandfathered” in under any passed federal regulation.
There are no indications that Snyder is looking to veto the bill but, from a look at the votes, legislators would be able to override a veto should it be necessary. Still, once HB 4926 is signed into law, it will still be a minimum of 15 months before ANY online gaming is regulated and licensed in the state of Michigan.