Michigan Online Sports Betting, Gaming Bills Signed Into Law

Michigan Online Sports Betting, Gaming Bills Signed Into Law

Michigan online sports betting, casino gaming and poker are now legal.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a sweeping package of gambling bills Friday, capping years of legislative back-and-forth. This legalizes one of the most extensive digital gaming markets in the country. Michigan becomes the first state with commercial and Native American casinos as well as online sports and casino gaming.

"My top priority in signing this legislation was protecting and investing in the School Aid Fund, because our students deserve leaders who put their education first," Whitmer said Friday in a news release. "Thanks in part to the hard work and leadership of Senator [Curtis] Hertel and Representative [Rebekah] Warren, these bills will put more dollars in Michigan classrooms and increase funding for firefighters battling cancer. This is a real bipartisan win for our state.”

Regulators will need to finalize gaming rules and approve operators, but officials say they believe sports betting and iGaming options will begin in 2020, possibly as early as March.

Gambling Bill Details

Michigan bettors will have one of the more well-rounded array of wagering options of the 20 states to approve sports betting. Eligible bettors age 21 and up will be able to bet from anywhere within the state without having to register in-person.

  • Mobile Betting: The state’s three commercial casinos in Detroit and its 23 Native American casinos will all be able to open digital sportsbooks. Not all 26 casinos are expected to begin immediately, but a handful should be online by the end of 2020 and even more should begin accepting wagers in 2021.
  • Retail: The law doesn’t specifically authorize in-person sports betting because the legislation’s sponsors didn’t believe it was necessary since it specifically authorizes online betting. Though not codified in the new bills, bettors should expect brick-and-mortar sportsbooks at most (if not all) of the 26 casinos ahead of or in conjunction with the launch of the digital offerings.
  • Other Games: Along with sports betting, the legislation permits online casino games such as slots, blackjack and roulette as well as poker. Michigan is just the sixth state to permit real money only poker and the fifth to authorize real money online casino games.

Legalization Background

The final version of the gaming bills overwhelmingly passed both houses of the Michigan Legislature. It wasn’t easy getting to that point.

  • History: Legislators had considered online gaming proposals for several years, and floated legal sports betting shortly after the Supreme Court struck down the federal ban in May 2018. Gaming backers couldn’t finalize a sports betting measure in 2018, but the entire legislature approved online casino gaming in December of last year.
  • Governor Veto: Then-Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, was expected to sign the bills passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature in December 2018. Instead, Snyder vetoed the package just days before he left office. By January 2019, Whitmer along with a new crop of freshmen lawmakers took office, forcing the legislation back to square one.
  • Compromise: The new version of the gaming package, this time with sports betting, seemed like it wouldn’t make it out of the legislature as Whitmer and some lawmakers feared the new games would cannibalize the popular Michigan Lottery, which channels hundreds of millions of dollars to education funds. After months of negotiations, stakeholders reached a compromise that increased iGaming tax rates and helped dispel fears about lost lottery revenues.

What Comes Next?

The legalization of the bills doesn’t mean Michigan bettors can place a legal bet Christmas Day.

  • Regulations: The Michigan Gaming Control Board now will finalize rules and regulatory structures. The rule promulgation, operator testing and final approval process has averaged about six months in states with sports betting, though lawmakers are hopeful for a March launch. Iowa and Indiana both took about three months to go from bill passage to first sports bet. Online casino gaming and poker could see a similar timeline.
  • Early Days: A couple of operators will likely accept bets on or near the day wagering commences, with the Detroit casinos the most likely candidates to be there from the beginning. Assuming Michigan mirrors other states, a handful of operators will open near the market’s inception and as many as 10 more should slowly finalize their products in the ensuing 12 to 18 months.
  • Bottom Line: Michigan has more than 20 potential online sports betting licenses, a long-standing gaming regulatory body, a large population and a strong affinity for sports. The legislation sets up one of the larger possible markets on the country and could help compel other states in the Midwest and across the country to consider similar gaming packages of their own.

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