The list of U.S. states not offering legalized sports gambling could soon get a little shorter, thanks to lawmakers in Michigan. Three legislative measures revolving around sports gambling have been introduced and were able to advance yesterday through the House Committee on Regulatory Reform. Next stop, the Ways and Means Committee where the bills will be scrutinized more thoroughly.
The first bill, House Bill 4916 (HB 4916) is the center of attention for Michigan’s legal sports gambling industry. It would allow both in-person and online wagers and the members of the Regulatory Reform committee showed their support with 11 in favor and only two against. Two other members abstained from voting.
HB 4916 establishes legal sportsbooks at Michigan’s three commercial casinos, as well as the many tribal casinos in the state. Commercial casinos would see an effective tax rate of 11.25%, if the bill isn’t modified, while the tribes would only have to pay 8% on their operations. Each venue that gets into the action would be allowed a single online partner site.
The other two bills are essentially riders on the back of HB 4916. They cover things like how to prosecute violations of the gambling laws, and the Regulatory Reform committee showed it support similar to that given to the primary bill.
Michigan has had a difficult time in the past finding enough legislative support for sports gambling, especially any form of online operations. The state’s former governor, Rick Snyder, axed a bill at the last minute as he was leaving office last year, despite the piece of legislation having received an overwhelmingly positive response by lawmakers. There’s a chance that the state’s current governor, Gretchen Whitmer, could follow suit.
Whitmer has already made it clear that she’s not exactly a fan of online gambling of any kind. She believes the activity would take money away from the state’s lottery, which funds the School Aid Fund, despite this already having been shown on numerous occasions to be completely misguided. With the new bill, Whitmer has stated that she might consider approving it if a higher tax rate were suggested, but resistance to that measure within the legislative channels has remained high.
As the trio of bills heads to the Ways and Means Committee, they already have a friend in an important position – Representative Brandt Iden sponsors HB 4916 and is the chair of that committee. Provided they find the support they need, the next stop could be the House floor for a vote by the chamber. From there, anything goes at this point, given the knowledge that Whitmer might be ready to turn into Paul Bunyan and chop up any gambling bill that lands on her desk.