The Michigan state lawmaker who recently reintroduced a bill to legalize sports betting said he is optimistic for his chances of his bill to become law, although it may not happen in 2017.
“I understand the federal law prohibits [sports] gambling, but I am the kind of guy that’s willing to take on the government,” state Rep. Robert Kosowski told Legal Sports Report in an interview.
Currently a federal law — PASPA — prevents single-game sports betting outside of Nevada while also allowing limited forms of wagering in three other states.
Why sports betting for Michigan?
This week, Kosowski again introduced a bill that would allow his state’s casinos to take sports bets.
That bill got a committee hearing in 2015, but didn’t reach the finish line. Kosowski said the reasons why he is pushing the bill this year remain the same, and they are practical in terms of revenue and policy.
Kosowski said the state has recently found more ways to charge its residents, including a gas tax that puts Michigan among the highest in the nation. Kosowski believes sports betting would be a good revenue stream for the state.
“I just don’t want to keep going after our residents all the time when there’s viable solutions out there,” Kosowski said. “This is a billion-dollar industry, just Michigan alone, by some of the small studies we have seen.”
Regulate sports betting, instead of a black market
Beyond the fiscal impact, Kosowski also sees the legalization of sports betting as a practical matter.
“All we’re doing right now is keeping illegal bookmaking happening in our state when we could regulate it,” Kosowski said. We could help people if they have problems when they gamble. They’re going to do it anyway, why not have people watching over it?”
He also realizes the fight for his bill to become law involves more than just his state passing it. New Jersey has been attempting to legalize sports betting for years, but that effort has been tied up in federal courts.
“I actually think the federal government will change something in the near future,” Kosowski said. “I bang the drum of saying ‘Why is it legal to do in Vegas, why could Oregon have parlay cards? What made them so special?’
“It should be equal everywhere,” Kosowski continued. “It (sports betting) should be up to he state if you ask me.”
What are the sports betting bill’s chances?
Kosowski was cautiously optimistic about his bill, although downplayed its chances for becoming law this year, calling it a “work in progress.”
“I have talked to both sides of the aisles, and it’s really good the comments I am getting back.In fact, I was kind of encouraged to reintroduce it because the chairs are going to be changing for Regulatory Reform,” Kosowski said, referring to the committees that are likely to deal with his bill.
“Hopefully this time we get another hearing with a totally different group up there. So yeah, I am optimistic that at least we can get the message out and at least we can start working on it.
“Are we going to do it next month? No. But maybe next year.”