Michigan Online Casino Gaming Nears Legalization

Michigan Online Casino Gaming Nears Legalization

Michigan’s online casino players received an early Christmas present.

The Michigan state Senate overwhelmingly passed an online casino legalization bill as part of a series of actions during the waning hours of its lame-duck legislative session, The Associated Press reports. A version of the bill passed the House of Representatives earlier this year but had languished in the upper chamber.

Now all that is required is a signature from current Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who leaves office next month. Snyder will likely approve the gambling bill along with the other measures passed by the Senate, which is controlled by the GOP.

When passed, Michigan will be the fifth state with a form of legal online betting, joining Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania. West Virginia is set to take online sports bets sometime next year.

Though the governor’s signature is expected in the coming days, Michigan residents won’t be able to play an online slot game or poker for money on Christmas morning. State regulators will still need to work out final details and oversight initiatives, which may take several more months.

Still, the legislature’s move is another major step in U.S. gambling expansion and caps off several years of efforts to offer online games in the Wolverine State. It will also open up the nation’s 10th-most populated state to regulated, online gaming.

How Michigan Online Betting Became Reality

Michigan is one of the more progressive gambling states in the country, with a host of Native American casinos as well as an established gaming center in Detroit. To further boost Detroit and the state’s gaming revenue potential as a whole, lawmakers several years ago floated the idea for online gaming.

These efforts passed through the House this summer but stalled in the Senate as the upper chamber worried about ways to protect Detroit’s gaming revenue. After months of negotiations, senators agreed to guarantee at least $179 million in gambling tax revenues, even if fewer players patronized the city’s three casinos.

The Senate, and later the House, agreed to an eight percent tax rate on operator revenue for online gaming, which puts it in line with other states with similar offerings. That contrasts the 19 percent rate for in-person gambling at land-based facilities, including the MGM Grand, Motor City and Greektown casinos.

Politicians believe this will balance Detroit’s interests with the best overall means to bolster state coffers. It also gives the state a major head start in regional gambling expansion.

Michigan Jumps Ahead in Midwestern Expansion Race

Michigan’s likely new online gaming market is a major development for the region and could spark further actions by its Midwestern neighbors.

Up to two dozen other states are considering some sort of gambling expansion, mostly around sports betting. The Midwest is a new epicenter of the developments, with states like Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana and Minnesota all set to take up gambling bills next year.

The Mid-Atlantic has typically led gambling expansion, especially the sports betting legalization race in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the federal ban. That has led to a domino effect – when one state passes a bill, its neighbors are more inclined to do the same.

New Jersey, which historically has the most progressive stance toward gambling of any state along the east coast, has played a large role in states like Pennsylvania and Delaware doing the same. Even in states more skeptical toward gambling, lawmakers have passed laws to keep would-be gamblers, and their money, from crossing state lines.

That scenario seems likely to play out further west. With Michigan’s new online gaming potential, it’s regional neighbors may be even more inclined to offer internet-based poker and casino games of their own.

Michigan’s own market also seems poised to press for new opportunities. The bill paves the way for sports betting, both online and in casinos. Further legislative and regulatory considerations are still needed, but it seems Michigan is closer than ever to taking its first legal sports bet.

Incoming Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is a sports betting supporter, and though she’ll lead a divided government with GOP control in both chambers of the legislature, officials from both parties have backed gambling and worked on a bipartisan basis to pass the online gambling bill.

With a groundbreaking piece of legislation already passed by the Michigan Legislature, it seems the state is already well positioned along the wave of gambling expansion – and may spur others to follow in its footsteps.

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