Spark of Hope for Michigan Online Gambling Bill

MichiganA representative of Sen. Mike Kowall – sponsor of Michigan´s “Lawful Internet Gaming Act” – says there is no reason why legislation cannot be passed this year.

Speaking with, Dave Biswas – the legislative director for Senator Kowall – said there should another hearing of the Senate´s Regulatory Reform Committee in the next couple of weeks that would likely vote the proposals through to the Senate Floor. Biswas is confident of the bill´s success and he believes that the bill will pass this year subject to a couple of technical changes.

According to Biswas, Senator Kowall is keen to oversee the passage of his “Lawful Internet Gaming Act” in order to generate tax revenues, establish consumer protection and create job opportunities. Kowall stated on the May 4th [geolink href=””]hearing of the Regulatory Reform Committee[/geolink] that the regulation of online gambling in Michigan could create 22,000 new jobs.

Momentum for Online Gambling Regained?

The conclusion drawn at the end of the May 4th hearing was that a lack of questions from committee members and the failure to take a vote on the proposals indicated a loss of momentum for online gambling in Michigan. Many industry observers compared the efforts to regulate online gambling in Michigan with those in Pennsylvania, which have ground to a halt.

However, if the technical changes hinted at by Biswas can overcome the potential objections raised by David Murley – the Deputy Director of Michigan´s Gaming Control Board – at the hearing, Senator Kowall´s “Lawful Internet Gaming Act” could regain the momentum it needs to be passed this year; although the proposals for the expansion of gambling may still need to be approved by voters.

Tribal Concerns Could be Moot

One of the potential objections raised by Murley at the hearing was the requirement for tribal entities to partially waive their rights to sovereign immunity if they wanted to apply for an online gambling license. Murley warned that Section 6(4) (b) of SB 889 could be interpreted as a violation of compacts between the tribes and the state, and result in the withholding of payments – just as the Gun Lake Tribe did when the online lottery was introduced last year.

Biswas disputes the validity of this argument – acknowledging that the state´s tribes with gaming interests were unhappy with the introduction of the online lottery, but suggesting that the revenues generated for the tribes by online gambling would redress the balance. Biswas had no comment to make with regard to sovereign immunity or the significant legal and policy questions raised by the proposals to allow players from out of state to participate in Michigan´s regulated market.

A New Soundbite in the Air?

Players who have been following governmental hearings in California, New York, Pennsylvania and now in Michigan will be sick of familiar with John Pappas´ claim that only regulation can prevent the Lock Poker scenario – in which unregulated poker sites disappear with players´ bankrolls. As was pointed out on this site [geolink href=””]at the beginning of May[/geolink], neither the Californian nor the Michigan proposals currently have safeguards in place to prevent a repeat of the Lock Poker scenario.

Pappas is obviously a keen reader of and has taken the hint; for, although he did make one alluding reference to Lock Poker at the May 4th Regulatory Reform Committee hearing, he also introduced a new soundbite – poker tourism. This was picked up by Steve Ruddock on, who explained the term poker tourism in this context related to the extra revenues generated by hotels, bars and restaurants located in areas where live poker events were being hosted.

It is a solid argument in some respects, but enough of a revenue generator to create a spark of hope for Michigan´s online gambling bill? We have heard plenty of politicians and their representatives make positive noises about the passage of online gambling legislation before, yet nothing has moved forward since November 2013. We shall see. Meanwhile, keep an eye on our [geolink href=””]online poker Michigan[/geolink] page to stay up to date on the latest Michigan related poker and gambling news.

Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett