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A new legislative effort to expedite the launch of online gambling in Michigan might not even be necessary.
Sen. Adam Hollier last week introduced a bipartisan bill (S 969) that would allow operators to roll out iGaming before regulators complete the full licensing process.
But the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) told Online Poker Report that it is already pursuing a more optimistic timeline. It is aiming to have online gambling and mobile sports betting ready to go in October.
“Everyone seems to be working toward getting this launched sooner rather than later,” said MGCB Deputy Director David Murley. “I think there’s a general feeling that commercial casinos, tribal governments, the executive branch and many legislative leaders want to move these rules along. Right now, the way we’re moving, the month of October is realistic to get the rules to the legislature and get licensing done as well.”
The agency’s previous timeline pushed the launch of Michigan online gambling into early 2021. Seeing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the Michigan casino industry, however, has created a broad desire to expedite the process.
Hollier’s district is in Detroit, where the state’s three commercial casinos are located. He introduced the bill to help casinos forced to shut down for more than two months because of the coronavirus.
The measure, however, doesn’t have a quick path to the finish line.
A legislative rule prevents Michigan bills from passing without being in possession of each house for at least five days, making it an impossibility before lawmakers leave for summer recess Friday. Both chambers return to work in late July but only have one day of session in August, so the bill likely can not pass before September.
“I appreciate the bill and support the bill,” said Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., who was instrumental in passing the Lawful Internet Gaming Act. “But the work here is already being done. I don’t think it’s a bad idea to have something that puts pressure on, but I feel very confident that the regulatory bodies will get this done ahead of schedule.”
The MGCB’s new timeline estimates an optimistic total of 250 calendar days for the rule-making process. Until recently, the agency was working under a more-cautious schedule based on its middle-of-the-road projection of 373 days.
According to Murley, the biggest factor in expediting launch is the time it takes the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) to approve the final regulations. If the committee waives its 15-session day review period, the process can be done in two days.
But that depends on how session days line up. Members of the House are running for election this fall, which may impact the JCAR schedule.
The MGCB has already created draft rules and received the first round of stakeholder comments. It also began taking supplier applications on May 15.
“From talking to the governor and the Gaming Control Board, I feel like good progress is being made,” Hertel said. “If I were to make a bet, I’d put my money on it being available by October anyway.”
Hertel will, however, introduce a new bill to address the fact that the Lawful Internet Gaming Act does not clearly authorize multi-state pooling for online poker.
According to the co-sponsor, omission was a simple oversight.
“That was a worry about no multi-state slot machines being in effect to compete with the lottery,” Hertel said. “We didn’t mean to include poker. But, moving as quickly as we were, it was one of the things we missed.”
Here’s his proposed language regarding multi-state poker:
The Michigan Gaming Control Board may enter into agreements with other jurisdictions, including Indian tribes, to facilitate, administer and regulate multijurisdictional internet gaming for poker by internet gaming operators to the extent that entering into the agreement is consistent with state and federal laws and if the internet gaming under the agreement is conducted only in the United States.
Hertel hopes to pass the bill in late summer or early fall to catch up with the rule-making process.