Michigan Senate Committee Passes Online Gambling Bill

MichiganA bill to regulate online gambling in Michigan passed the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee yesterday, but is unlikely to progress any further this year.

Regulated online gambling in Michigan took one small step towards becoming a reality sometime in the future when the state´s Senate Regulatory Reform Committee yesterday passed an amended version of Mike Kowall´s “Lawful Internet Gambling Act” (SB 889) with a majority of 8 votes to 1.

However, despite the significant majority vote, the bill is unlikely to receive further consideration in 2016. During yesterday´s brief committee hearing, Senator Kowall acknowledged that there were still some unresolved objections to his bill that he would seek to address during the summer.

Furthermore, as the Michigan legislature is taking extended breaks this year due to the elections and November ballot, there will be a lack of opportunities to present the Lawful Internet Gambling Act to the full Senate, or for a companion bill to be introduced into the House of Representatives.

What´s New in SB 889

Despite Senator Kowall´s legislative director – Dave Biswas – suggesting last month that “[geolink href=”https://www.usafriendlypokersites.com/spark-hope-michigan-online-gambling-bill/”]a couple of technical changes[/geolink]” would be made to SB 889, there is very little difference between the previously published version of the Lawful Internet Gambling Act and the version presented to the Senate committee yesterday. The only changes mentioned by Senator Kowall were:

  • $5 million of the proceeds from online gambling in Michigan would be earmarked for the Firefighters Cancer Presumption Fund.
  • Different licenses would be issued to tribal gaming communities than those issued to commercial casinos.

The technical differences between the two licenses are yet-to-be determined by a yet-to-be formed Division of Internet Gambling; who will also be responsible for compiling the mechanisms for player protection still absent from Kowall´s proposals. There was no mention of the “significant legal and policy questions” raised by David Murley – the Deputy Director of Michigan´s Gaming Control Board – [geolink href=”https://www.usafriendlypokersites.com/momentum-lost-regulated-online-gambling-michigan/”]at the May hearing of the Regulatory Reform Committee[/geolink].

Done and Dusted in Less than Four Minutes

The whole process of passing the online gambling bill was concluded in less than four minutes. At the beginning of the hearing, Committee Chairman Tory Rocca explained that the committee had already held a full hearing of the proposals to regulate online gambling in May and the only speaker on this occasion would be Senator Kowall.

After Senator Kowall had explained the changes to SB 889, Chairman Rocca read out a list of parties that had wished to speak at the hearing, but whose requests had been declined. Those parties included Jason Verne – a representative of Sheldon Adelson´s Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling – and legal representatives of the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi Indians and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe – both of whom are opposed to the proposals to regulate online gambling in Michigan.

The committee members were then asked to vote on passing the Lawful Internet Gambling Act and a companion bill (SB 890) that excludes gambling conducted under a regulatory framework from the Michigan Penal Code. The bills were passed by a majority of 8 votes to 1, with the only dissenting voice among the committee being Republican Senator Peter MacGregor.

Reaction to Bill´s Passage Muted

The reaction to the passage of the Lawful Internet Gambling Act was fairly muted. Most sites reported the event without knowing what changes had been made to the bill, what objections remained unresolved or what few opportunities existed for the bill to proceed this year. The Poker Players Alliance was the only advocate of regulated online gambling to display any great enthusiasm by tweeting:

Most observers acknowledge that there is a still a lot of work to be done, legal issues to be addressed and objections to be overcome before legislation to regulate online gambling in Michigan is enacted. Even if legislation is rushed through this year, there will still be a considerable passage of time before the yet-to-be formed Division of Internet Gambling is in a position to accept applications for online gambling licenses and process them.

Realistically, it is unlikely that Michigan residents will be able to gamble online in a regulated environment in 2016 or 2017, but watch this space for 2018.

Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett