Emergency designation the key issue in Michigan
Legal Sports Report

Online Michigan Sports Betting Needs This One Major Assist To Go Live By Fall

Michigan sports betting

Online Michigan sports betting and gaming could launch this fall if new regulations can wrangle an emergency designation, according to one insider.

The Michigan Gaming Control Board sent draft regs for both verticals to interested parties last week. The regulator is asking for stakeholder feedback.

Industry trade group IDEA, which has collaborated on the regulations with the MGCB, said they represented a key step toward getting the market live early.

IDEA spokesperson John Pappas said the aim was now to get stakeholder feedback completed within the next two weeks.

Then comes the hard part in Michigan sports betting

If regulators and gambling companies can agree on the language, the regulations can be sent to the governor as emergency rules.

That designation helps skip several bureaucratic steps that could slow the launch of the market at a time when the state and its casinos are struggling for revenue.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer might present the biggest sticking point. She previously instructed that emergency rules should not be used to expedite the process.

Whitmer signed into law a bill authorizing sports betting in Michigan in late 2019. The legislation also allows iGaming, DFS, and online poker in 2019.

Retail Michigan sports betting opened just days before most pandemic-related shutdowns in mid-March.

MI draft rules draw from NJ and IN

Pappas said the draft rules draw heavily from New Jersey and Indiana, the two states considered to have sensible regulations.

“Michigan didn’t try and reinvent the wheel here,” Pappas said. “That helps the industry as they are familiar with the framework, and obviously that helped the regulator get these rules written.”

The regs cover technical standards including:

  • Geolocation
  • Licensing fees
  • What data centers can be used

The MGCB also might expedite the Michigan sports betting licensing process for companies licensed in other US states. Companies will be able to receive provisional licenses and go live immediately, while the MGCB carries out its full due diligence.

It all means that the market could be ready to go live this fall, according to Pappas.

“ I think anywhere between September and October is a reasonable time frame,” the lobbyist said.

Michigan regulator calls for caution

The MGCB stressed the proposals were early-stage drafts. It expects changes to be made to both rule sets.

The regulator is also continuing the normal rules-creation process in the background. A change of heart for Whitmer would require reversing course on her reluctance for emergency MI sports betting rules.

However, that was a pre-coronavirus pandemic. Michigan casinos are suffering, and the state itself is facing a reported $1.5 billion budget deficit this fiscal year.

“It is not known if the governor will now allow for emergency rules,” Pappas said. “But several stakeholders are pushing for it, given the current economic crisis. The governor should recognize the need to take any steps that can bring new revenue to the state.”

It’s now over to the MGCB and stakeholders to deliver a workable set of regulations to the governor as soon as possible.

Brad Allen
- Brad has been covering the online gambling industry in Europe and the US for more than four years, most recently as the news editor at EGR Global.
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