Is Online Gambling in Michigan Still a Pipe Dream?

MichiganAfter seeing a potential bill that would have legalized online poker die a quick and quiet death in the Michigan Senate, there are now talks of renewed life for it on the horizon.

Online gambling measures have been making their way through legislatures in several states over the past few months, only to be shot down or buried by politicians with specific agendas in mind. In fact, [geolink href=””]Pennsylvania is really the only state that has legitimate shot at becoming the 4th state to legalize iGaming[/geolink], with a vote coming on their state’s spending bill as early as this week.

I bring this up because it looks as if a revival of sorts is happening yet again in the state of Michigan – one that could see online gambling back on the legal docket very soon. The state made headlines back in 2016 for presenting a bill called SB.889, which called for the legalization and regulation of online poker.

The Controversy Behind SB.889

The bill, which was [geolink href=””]brought forth by Senator Mike Kowall[/geolink], was also called the Lawful Internet Gaming Act. The measure came out of left field initially, until it was revealed that a Detroit Free Press investigation found some deeper ties to Kowall’s sudden interest in legal online poker in Michigan.

It was found out that Kowall’s wife had worked as a lobbyist that represented Amaya Gaming (Pokerstars). When you put 2 and 2 together, it’s not hard to see why some saw Kowall’s interest in this bill passing as biased, as Pokerstars has confirmed lobbyists all over the country trying to push forward online poker in many states, with the endgame undoubtedly being Stars getting back into the USA gambling market.

Despite the controversy, [geolink href=””]the bill passed through a special committee[/geolink] with flying colors, as a vote of 8-1 in favor of the bill was revealed. Unfortunately, for reasons unbeknownst to me and many others in the poker media at the time, the bill just completely faded into oblivion just weeks after being presented to the Senate.

Fast Forward to 2017 – Is Online Gambling Back on the Docket?

It gets pretty foggy regarding the possibility of online gambling showing back up before the Senate yet again in 2017, but if any of these recent media reports are accurate, Mike Kowall has been [geolink href=””]actively trying to revive iGaming legalization yet again[/geolink]. In fact, he had been very active in meeting with representatives from many Native American tribes that run brick and mortar operations in the state, as well as other interested parties that would most likely benefit from such a bill from passing.

These talks led to the introduction of a few different bills that not only mirrored the original SB.889 proposal he presented to the Senate in 2016, but also had the backing of several other senators in the state, including Curtis Hertel, Rebekah Warran and Rick Jones. As of fate would have it, these bills seemed to die in the Senate within the past few months, with almost little to no press coverage about it.

Despite all of this, it doesn’t seem that the online gambling debate is going to go away any time soon in Michigan. There have already been talks about re-introducing the possible legalization of online poker yet again this year, but with a much different angle behind it. This angle involves the recent bill introductions to legalize and regulate DFS, including making operators obtain all the proper licenses and geo-targeting software is put in place to make sure no underage players are given accounts.

Those particular points of interest are something that online poker proponents have been long been using to get their own state legislatures on board with passing legal iGaming options in their respected jurisdictions. It is because of all this talk about DFS regulation and Mike Kowall’s continued persistence on getting legalized [geolink href=””]online poker in Michigan[/geolink] that we could very well see this debate rage on in the coming months. This is a developing story that we will hopefully be updating very soon.

Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett