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Michigan finally legalized retail and mobile sports betting in December 2019 after trying since 2015.
The state’s gambling laws are laid out in the Michigan Gaming Control and Revenue Act of 1996. That Act authorized gambling in three casinos on non-tribal land in Detroit. Appetite for passage was partially driven by the construction of a new casino in Ontario, just across the river from Michigan’s largest metropolis.
The measure was narrowly approved by 51.51 percent of the state voters and enacted into law the following year. It defines many forms of permitted “gambling games,” but there was no mention of sports betting.
That changed in December 2019 when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed sports betting into law. The law allows for mobile sports betting as well as at the physical commercial and tribal casinos throughout the state. Online gaming was also legalized.
Sports betting revenue is taxed at 8.4%. The commercial casinos in Detroit will pay an additional 1.25% city tax.
The state currently has an online lottery, 23 tribal casinos, three commercial casinos, and two race tracks which host pari-mutuel horse betting.
With no authorization to issue emergency rules, the Michigan Gaming Control Board estimates the rulemaking process for mobile sports betting to take a year.
The phrase “commercially reasonable terms” has been popping up in sports betting bills across the country as debate rages over mandated official league data usage.
This week's recap of sports betting news includes Michigan becoming the 20th state with legal sportsbooks and big numbers in Pennsylvania.
Yes, sports betting is legal in Michigan. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a bill into law in late December 2019 despite it looking like a dead end for the majority of the year.
The Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) will regulate sports betting.
Nowhere currently. Retail sports betting could be live by March with mobile sports betting to follow.
All commercial and tribal casinos would be allowed to apply under the approved bill.
These are the three commercial casinos in Detroit:
You have to be 21 in order to place a sports bet in Michigan.
Yes, mobile sports betting will be available at some point in 2020.
Rep. Robert Kosowki had introduced sports betting legislation in each of the previous two years, and he tried again in 2017. That year, Kosowski submitted three bills on the subject.
H 4260 was a copy of his 2016 bill that moved to allow casinos to offer sports betting. “I understand the federal law prohibits [sports] gambling, but I am the kind of guy that’s willing to take on the government,” Kosowski told Legal Sports Report. He continued:
All we’re doing right now is keeping illegal bookmaking happening in our state when we could regulate it. 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?
H 4261 mirrored his other 2016 bill, but this one added some additional language. Kosowski moved to allow “parlay wagering” at both casinos and third-party facilities.
The board shall develop a licensing and regulatory program to license and regulate sports betting agents in the state. The board shall develop a system that allows parlay wagers at retail locations throughout the state. The board may work with the Bureau of State Lottery to make parlay wagers through the State Lottery system or a similar system as determined by the board.
H 4529 took a different tack than the others. It sought to amend the state’s lottery laws rather than its gambling laws. Under this third bill, lottery retailers and agents would be the ones permitted to offer parlay betting.
Kosowski’s 2017 efforts did not culminate in a committee vote. However, Rep. Brandt Iden provided another possible path to legal sports betting.
Iden was hard at work on a comprehensive online gambling bill. His first version of H 4926 prohibited sports betting, but a substitute version flipped the script. Iden included provisions for legalization with this amended language:
The division may permit an internet gaming licensee to conduct internet wagering under this act on any amateur or professional sporting event or contest, if that internet wagering is not prohibited by federal law.
Late in 2017, Iden’s Lawful Internet Gaming Act became the first with sports betting language to pass through the Committee on Regulatory Reform.
Rep. Kosowski re-introduced his 2015 bill once again in 2016. This time, H 5828 included language that would permit third parties to offer sports betting, in addition to the commercial casinos.
The board may, in addition to casinos, provide for sports betting agents to accept wagers on sporting events to facilitate sports betting in this state.
Once again, Kosowski’s bill failed to make any progress in Committee.
Rep. Kosowski has been at the forefront of the efforts since the start. In 2015, he introduced the state’s first two pieces of sports betting legislation.
H 4669 moved to allow casinos to conduct sports betting. H 4670 would have extended the permissions to include wagering on simulcast horse racing, too. It also directed the gaming commission to promulgate the necessary rules for both operations. Under the existing law, casinos are not permitted to show simulcast races, let alone accept wagers on them.
The bills’ analysis contained this comment from the House Fiscal Agency:
Presumably, the acceptance of wagers on sporting events under House Bill 4669 would have a positive fiscal impact on state and local wagering tax revenues due to the increase in adjusted casino gross receipts at the three Detroit casinos. Increased adjusted gross receipts would result in increased state and local casino wagering tax revenues.
The committee projected that sports betting licensees could realize upwards of $30 million in annual revenue, with about $2 million of that going to the state. Detroit would receive even more than that. The city houses the three commercial casinos and receives tax revenue from them. There was caution, however, that any expansion of gambling would put tribal compacts in jeopardy and create additional administrative costs.
Kosowski pitched his bills as a way to provide funds for road improvements. If passed, they would have required a voter referendum to be enacted into law.
They never did advance out of committee, but the 2015 bills did start the conversation around sports betting in Michigan.