Bill or no bill? Either way, Michigan sports betting is coming

Key Lawmaker Will Introduce Michigan Sports Betting Bill, But It Might Not Be Necessary

Michigan sports betting

Fresh off passing online gambling legislation on the final day of the 2018 legislative session, Michigan Rep. Brandt Iden tells Legal Sports Report that sports betting will be his priority in 2019.

He also notes that it’s possible Michigan sports betting could begin without any additional legislation if H 4926 is signed into law.

The Lawful Internet Gaming Act passed the Senate by a vote of 33-5 on Dec. 20, followed by approval in the House by a 71-35 margin hours later.

“It’s a great first step,” Iden said. “In 2019, my focus will be sports betting, and what that vote count told me in the House and Senate is that there will be support as I roll out sports betting legislation again.”

Online sports betting in a bill

The Lawful Internet Gaming Act includes one sentence on sports betting. It gives the Division of Internet Gaming the option to “permit internet gaming operators licensed by the division to accept internet wagers under this act on any amateur or professional sporting event or contest.”

In June, after H 4926 initially passed in the House, Iden said that he wanted to give the gaming control board the ability to establish parameters for online sports betting, but that he still believed additional legislation was required to set up the tax rate.

Well, in H 5881, which was also passed on the final day of the session amending the Michigan Gaming Control and Revenue Act, he included sports betting along with internet gaming, while establishing an 8 percent tax rate on adjusted gross receipts.

“Some people think that the division could decide to permit online sports wagers without any further legislation,” Iden said. “Obviously, in the (online gaming) legislation, I made note of that in case regulators want to do so, but I’ll move forward with statutory framework anyway.”

Added incentive to pass Michigan sports betting in 2019

The internet gaming bill that passed last week would take effect three months after signed into law, following which the division would have a full year to establish regulations and issue licenses. This 15-month moratorium means that including the language on sports betting in H 4926 could be moot if a comprehensive sports betting bill passes in 2019.

However, the language on sports betting was included in the bill, and it’s worth noting that the substantial changes made by the Senate in the weeks leading up to passage included alterations made at the request of the gaming tribes, commercial casinos, horse racing industry and the City of Detroit.

Through all these changes, the sports betting language remained.

This seems to indicate that the tribal and commercial casino interests want sports betting and the legislators are willing to give it to them. If, for some reason, the legislature fails to pass a sports betting bill in 2019, regulators may already have all they need to create a sports betting licensing structure on their own.

There’s a reason to believe Michigan will have sports betting in 2020, one way or another.

Matthew Kredell
- Matthew began writing about legislative efforts to regulate online poker in 2007 after UIGEA interfered with his hobby of playing small-stakes online poker while working as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News. Covering the topic for Bluff Magazine, PokerNews and now Online Poker Report, he has interviewed four U.S. Congressmen and 20+ state legislators. His poker writing has been cited by The Atlantic, Politico.com and CNN.com. A freelance writer based in Los Angeles, Matt has written on a variety of topics for Playboy Magazine, Men's Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.
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