Michigan Sen. Kowall Tries To Regulate Online Gambling For Second Year In A Row

Michigan To Take Another Swing At Online Gambling Legalization With New Bills

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Michigan is back in the game for the possible legalization of online gambling, with a hearing on legislation reportedly slated for next week.

The stirrings in Michigan come as legislative efforts in Pennsylvania and New York on iGaming are ramping up.

Michigan online gambling bills reappear in Senate

Up to four different bills that deal with gaming and online gambling appeared in the Senate today. That development was first noted by the Poker Players Alliance:

None of the four bills includes any text, yet. Here they are: S 202S 203S 204S 205.

State Sen. Mike Kowall— who introduced online gambling legislation in the statehouse last year — sponsored two of those bills. This year’s effort may try to balance the needs and desires of the state’s commercial casinos and tribal gaming facilities.

The 203 and 204 bills are Kowall’s, and feature these sponsors:

The PPA also reported that a hearing will take place next week:

The backstory on Michigan and online gambling

Michigan’s legislature appeared got into the online gambling discussion in 2016 with new online gambling legislation that Kowall introduced in April.

Early on, Kowall expressed optimism for the bill getting to the finish line. The bill passed a committee vote in his chamber, but didn’t advance past that. In the end, the legislation appears to have set the stage for a discussion in the state this year and possibly beyond.

Michigan already has online lottery sales.

Complex stakeholder mix could complicate Michigan’s path

Crafting a bill in Michigan that satisfies all stakeholders and avoids legal missteps is a significant challenge.

As Dave Palermo wrote in January, balancing state law and federal law regarding Indian gaming could prove a step too far to reach:

But a dozen gambling industry attorneys, lawyers and regulators told Online Poker Report that attempting to combine state and federal Indian law into a single piece of Internet legislation will be a difficult, if not impossible, task.

“There are so many regulatory and jurisdictional components to this … it may never get resolved,” said a Michigan attorney who, like several others interviewed for this article, declined to be identified.

Michigan’s gambling landscape is further muddled by a debate over whether state law would require expansion of gambling to be subject to a constitutional amendment and/or two-thirds approval of the state Legislation.

Regulated online gambling does appear to have at least one active opponent in the state. Last December, Online Poker Report acquired a letter commissioned by a lobbying firm that sought to portray online gambling as a threat to commercial casino revenue.

The party ultimately behind the letter, which was based on outdated and mischaracterized research, remains unknown.

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Michigan joins growing list of states interested in regulation

Michigan’s initiative marks the fifth state to enter the regulated online gambling conversation in 2017.

At the top of that list sit Pennsylvania, where regulation of online casino and poker is expected to advance as part of a larger legislative package addressing gambling expansion and reform. There is also New York, which recently picked up significant momentum on its path to regulated online poker.

Also in the mix: California, where proponents have again introduced a bill to regulate online poker. Rounding out the list is New Hampshire, where a bill to decriminalize consumer participation in online gambling appears to have stalled for this year.

- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner. He has played poker recreationally for his entire adult life and has written about poker since 2008.
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