Michigan Online Gambling Hearing Today at State Capitol Bears a Solid “Maybe”

May 4th, 2016 | by Jason Reynolds

A Michigan online gambling bill was heard by the State Senate’s Regulatory Reform Committee today at the State Capitol Building in Lansing. Authored by State Senator Mike Kowall (R-District 15), Senate Bill 889 would allow current enterprises invested in gambling to take their services online with digital and interactive casinos.

Michigan online gambling MotorCity casino

The MotorCity Casino in downtown Detroit would be permitted to take its casino to the Internet should a Michigan online gambling and poker bill one day become law. All three brick-and-mortar casinos in the city weighed in as “neutral” in iGaming for their state at today’s hearing. (Image: Detroit News file photo)

Also known as the “lawful Internet gaming act,” Kowall’s legislation would not only regulate online poker, but all general casino games currently offered at land-based venues.

“The Internet has become an integral part of everyday life for a significant number of residents of this state,” Kowall writes in the legislation.

“Internet wagering on games of chance and games of skill is a core form of entertainment for millions of individuals worldwide,”he also stated.

“In order to protect the residents of this state who wager on games of chance and skill through the Internet and to capture revenues and create jobs generated from Internet gaming, it is in the best interest of this state and its citizens to regulate this activity,” Kowall opined.

The Regulatory Reform Committee began considering Kowall’s proposition this afternoon.

Motor City Lifeline

You don’t have to live in Detroit to know the city has been under dire financial strain for over a decade. In 2013, the city filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy holding an estimated $18-20 billion debt.

Detroit allowed the state to assume administrative control of its government, and while Motor City is showing signs of life, the area’s economy remains on the verge of catastrophe.

Michigan is one of only five states that has tribal, commercial, and charitable gambling, as well as a lottery and pari-mutuel wagering.

Though Detroit’s three commercial casinos, the MGM Grand Detroit, MotorCity Casino, and Greektown Casino, are off to strong starts in 2016 and have grossed $350 million through the first quarter, Kowall believes allowing them to offer online games would deliver a substantial boost to their bottom lines.

SB 889 would provide licenses to commercial or tribal casino operators at a cost of $5 million, with the money being credited towards their future 10 percent gross gaming tax responsibility. A $100,000 nonrefundable application fee would also be imposed.

The bill additionally requires a series of safeguards and standards to be implemented such as geolocation, age, and identification verification software.

Kowall to the Wall

States across the country have been dragging their feet for months and even years when it comes to legalizing online casinos. Legislation has been introduced in New York, Pennsylvania, and California to name a few, but presently Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware remain as the only legal iGaming jurisdictions.

Kowall introduced his Michigan online gambling bill just over two weeks ago, but the senator is quickly gaining support for his legislation.

SB 889 has the bipartisan backing of Senators Curtis Hertel (D-District 23), Rebekah Warren (D-District 18), Bert Johnson (D-District 2) and Marty Knollenberg (R-District 13). Along with Kowall, all four cosponsors serve on the nine-member Regulatory Reform Committee, which means the bill’s chances of passing committee seem to be extremely strong, as a majority is already assumed.

The Poker Players Alliance (PPA) tweeted regularly to keep Michiganders and others invested in the bill’s outcome updated throughout the day. Among their comments, the PPA noted that Governor Rick Snyder (R) has not yet taken an official stand on iGaming for his state, yay or nay.

They also tweeted that the gaming commission was on board as far as regulation goes, and that the three Detroit land-based casinos were positioning themselves as “neutral” on the bill.

Players who would like to contact Michigan state lawmakers with their views on the issue can use this link as a guide.

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