Michigan State Senator Introduces Online Gaming Bill
On Thursday, Michigan State Senator Mike Kowall (15th District) introduced SB 889, the “Lawful Internet Gaming Act,” in the state Senate, the legislative beginning of an effort to legalize and regulate online poker and other types of casino gambling in Michigan.
“In order 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 says in its introduction, “it is in the best interest of this state and its citizens to regulate this activity by authorizing and establishing a secure, responsible, fair, and legal system of Internet gaming that complies with the United States Department of Justice’s September 2011 opinion concerning 18 USC 1084.”
That 18 USC 1084 that is mentioned is best known as the Wire Act, which was instituted in 1961 in order to outlaw sports betting over communications lines (at the time, telephone wires). For whatever reason, it had come to be interpreted as forbidding all online gambling. The 2011 opinion (which was actually in December) said that the Wire Act did, in fact, only apply to sports betting, officially opening up the door for states to launch their own regulated internet gaming industries. Only New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada have done so to this point.
SB 889 would initially only allow people at least 21-years old and within Michigan state borders to play on the state’s licensed gaming sites. There is language in the bill, though, that permits the state to enter into “multijurisdictional agreements” in order to increase the available player pool. Nevada and Delaware already have such an agreement, which allows players from both states to play on sites located in either state. The bill also seems to even allow players from elsewhere to play on Michigan sites without a multijurisidictional agreement as long as doing so doesn’t violate any laws, either in the U.S. or wherever the player is from. One might guess that situation would be fairly rare.
Only licensed casinos and Native American tribes in Michigan will be permitted to apply for an online gaming license. The application comes with a $100,000 non-refundable application fee. Once granted, the fee for the actual license is $5 million, money which will be applied towards the licensees gaming tax bill. Operators will have to fork over 10 percent of gross gaming revenues to the state. Licenses are good for five years and are renewable for another five.
Like with every other online gaming bill that has been introduced into state legislatures, don’t expect anything with this one any time soon. If there is a reason for optimism, though, it is that Michigan is one of just a handful of states that sells lottery tickets online, so at least some form of online gaming is already established and accepted in the state.
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