The state of Michigan is considering legalizing online gambling after Republican State Senator Mike Kowall introduced a bill last week to the Committee on Regulatory Reform. The proposed bill is entitled “The Lawful Internet Gaming Act” and would see online gambling, such as poker and casino betting, become fully legal and regulated within the Great Lakes State.
Kowall represents the 15th District in Michigan and has been a member of the state senate since 2010. He is also the vice chair of the Commerce and Oversight Committee and part of the Government Operations, Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, and the Regulatory Reform committees. Joining him as co-sponsors of the bill, are Senators Curtis Hertel Jr., Rebekah Warren, Bert Johnson, and Marty Knollenberg. Kowall supports the legalisation of internet wagering and has stated that he would like Michigan to become the fourth state (after New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Delaware) to allow residents to gamble online from the comfort of their own homes.
The bill seeks to “protect residents of this state who wager on games of chance and skill through the internet and to capture revenues and create jobs generated from internet gaming.”
The bill, if it came into effect, would, allow online gambling for players 21 and over. It would authorise poker and casino sites to provide online gambling services to customers. Michigan land-based casinos can apply for a license, and no more than eight licenses will be granted. There is a $5 million licensing fee (including an upfront, nonrefundable $100,000 fee). The $5 million fee is an advance payment against future taxes owed. The state will collect a 10% tax on gross gaming revenue from the casinos offering online gambling.
Michigan has already introduced online lottery sales in the state and its success could potentially influence legislators to vote in favour of the online gambling bill. They were one of the first states in the USA to launch online lottery sales, which began in January of 2015.
The location aspect of the bill is yet to be confirmed, as of yet it doesn’t seem to expressly restrict access to online gaming sites for players outside of Michigan. It hasn’t mentioned whether a player’s physical location will affect their ability to avail of online gambling. This most likely would open the door for international and interstate compacting.
The bill’s specifics dictate that only licensed Michigan casinos and “federally recognized” Native American tribes in Michigan that have already obtained gaming licenses may apply. Any tribe that wants to operate a site “waives its sovereign immunity with respect to conducting gaming under this act and paying fees and taxes imposed under this act.”
The last state to legalise online gambling in the US was New Jersey, two and a half years ago. It had disappointed many online poker fans in the U.S. that more states have not followed suit and begun to regulate internet poker.
The proposed bill has not set specific standards for features such as fraud prevention, problem gambling issues, cheating detection, but the bill does outline that the gaming commission can (and almost certainly will) assist in developing these standards and that the gaming operators must ascertain ways of upholding them.