Decision time has arrived for Michigan online gambling bill

Lawmakers Pass Michigan Online Gambling Bill In Eleventh Hour

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As the final few hours ticked off the 2018 legislative clock, lawmakers in Michigan passed a bill that would legalize online gambling within the state.

The proposal from Rep. Brandt Iden, which would include MI online poker, was among the dozens and dozens of bills considered during the final scheduled session on Thursday. Facing a seemingly endless to-do list, the process spilled over into a bonus Friday of lawmaking.

The “lawful internet gaming act” cleared one Senate committee and both chambers over the course of the long night, crossing all but one final hurdle. The bill now moves to the desk of Gov. Rick Snyder for his signature. (Full text here.)

That last step is far from a certainty, but the eleventh-hour push suggests favorable odds for passage.

Michigan one step from legalizing online gambling

After lingering on the calendar for an eternity, H 4926 suddenly came up for a hearing before the Senate Committee on Government Operations late Thursday evening. The Iden bill is a mature effort to authorize online poker and online casino games like blackjack and slots.

The committee advanced the bill out onto the floor, where the chamber was once again called to order. Sen. Mike Kowall, sponsor of a parallel effort in the Senate, presented an amended version and moved it along to third reading.

The full Senate promptly passed the bill by a lopsided 33-5 vote, sending it back down to the House for concurrence.

Hours later, shortly after 3:15 a.m. local time on Friday, the speaker called the bill for its decisive moment. Green and red lights filled the electronic scoreboard, with the lower chamber voting 71-35 to pass the lawful internet gaming act with a safe margin.

Should Snyder sign the bill into law, Michigan would become the fifth state to legalize casino-style online gambling, joining:

What’s in the Michigan online gambling bill?

The bill would establish a division of MI internet gambling within the Michigan Gaming Control Board.

Regulators would be authorized to issue internet gaming licenses to any commercial or tribal casino in the state, with applications costing $100,000 apiece. If approved, licenses run $200,000 for the first year and $100,000 annually thereafter.

Revenue would be taxed at a base rate of eight percent, with another 1.25 percent local share added for the commercial casinos in Detroit.

Meanwhile, Online Poker Report learned this week that the US Department of Justice may intervene in such state-regulated online gambling. The agency is reportedly drafting a revised interpretation of the federal Wire Act which could surface as soon as Friday.

Notably, the bill also includes at least a placeholder for online sports betting — and possibly direct authorization. Here’s the relevant excerpt:

The division may permit internet gaming operators licensed by the division to accept internet wagers under this act on any amateur or professional sporting event or contest.

Implications surrounding all of the above are very much in flux at the moment. More to come from OPR on Friday.

- Eric is a reporter and writer covering regulated US gambling, sports betting, and DFS. He comes from a poker background, formerly on staff at PokerNews and the World Poker Tour.
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