Michigan Gambling Guide, Laws and Regulations

When discussing the next state that’ll legalize online gaming, California,
New York and Pennsylvania often come to mind.

Michigan often gets overlooked in this subject, even though they’re making
serious efforts to regulate Internet gaming. In fact, the State Senate is
currently reviewing SB 203, which would legalize online casinos and poker sites.

Will Michigan pass SB 203 and become the fourth state to offer iGaming?

This is just one question we’ll discuss as we look at Michigan’s current
Internet gambling landscape.

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Online Gambling and Michigan Law

Michigan has a strange history with online gaming that begins in 1999, when
they banned online gambling.

Senate bill 562 added Section 750.145d to the Michigan Constitution, which
makes it illegal to “use the internet to violate any of Michigan’s anti-gambling
provisions.”

SB 562 was well ahead of its time, and no other state had online gaming on
their radar. This was the same year that MGM Grand Detroit opened, and we
imagine that this had something to do with the push to ban iGaming.

In any case, SB 562 was repealed the following year as libertarianism swept
through the State Legislature.

Nothing has changed since the repeal of Section 750.145d, which leaves
Michigan in a total grey area when it comes to online gaming.

Let’s cover some important topics regarding the current state of Michigan
iGaming along with when/if they will ever legalize the activity.

Is Online Gambling Legal in Michigan?

No, but it’s not illegal either.

In 2000, the majority of the State Legislature voted to repeal the
short-lived iGaming ban with Public Act 185. Nothing has happened with the
matter since then, and the Michigan Constitution has no language banning the
activity.

The absence of anti-internet gaming legislation doesn’t make it legal either,
but the politicians who repealed the ban must have thought that it infringed on
people’s rights.

Again, Michigan is still very much a grey area when it comes to online
gambling, and we don’t see this changing until regulation comes.

Can I Get Arrested for Gambling Online in Michigan?

Given what we discussed above, it’s highly unlikely that Michigan would
arrest anybody for gambling over the Internet. What’s more is that we can’t find
one instance of an online gambler being arrested in the Great Lake State.

Nevertheless, you should know all of the facts before assuming that there’s
no chance you could be arrested.

Section 750.314 of the criminal code lays out a broad definition of what
constitutes gambling in the state:

“Any person who by playing at cards, dice, or any other game, or by betting
or putting up money on cards, or by any other means or device in the nature of
betting on cards, or betting of any kind, wins or obtains any sum of money or
any goods, or any article of value whatever …”

This crime is a misdemeanor if you win less than $50 from the gambling game,
and a high-grade misdemeanor if you win over $50.

Again, the odds of you being busted for gambling online in Michigan are
ridiculously small, but we still want you to be aware of Section 750.314 just in
case.

Are Offshore Gaming Sites Safe?

Many offshore casinos, poker rooms and sports betting sites serve Michigan
natives. The reason why is because this state has no legal language aimed at
offshore operators.

This leads many players to wonder if it’s safe for them to play at these
sites.

The first thing to understand is that offshore gaming sites aren’t licensed
anywhere in the U.S. Instead, they obtain licenses in foreign
countries/territories like Alderney, Costa Rica, Curacao, Quebec
(Kahnawake/Mohawk Territory) and Panama.

While these jurisdictions screen operators to make sure they’re legitimate
companies, there’s little-to-no oversight afterward.

This doesn’t mean that offshore operators are shady. It simply means that you
need to do your homework before signing up and depositing with one.

We’ll cover some of the points you should consider before choosing a gaming
site later.

How Close is Michigan to Legalizing Online Gambling?

In March 2017, the Michigan Senate Committee on Regulatory Reform passed SB
203 by a 7-1 margin.

Sponsored by State Sen. Mike Kowall, SB 203 would legalize both online casino
and poker games in the Wolverine State. Kowall told the
Detroit News that he sees regulated iGaming providing many benefits for the
state economy
.

“The potential for jobs and economic development right here in Michigan is
being lost,” said the Republican. “This legislation gives Michigan an
opportunity to stop this illegal activity and to generate new revenue that could
help fund infrastructure improvements, health care, education, public safety and
other worthwhile programs.”

Kowall is receiving support from Amaya Gaming (a.k.a. Stars Group), which is
a major online gaming company that’s hoping to operate in Michigan. Amaya
believes that the state could earn up to $320 million from the market annually.

But SB 203 also faces stiff opposition from Native-American tribes, who argue
that the legislation makes it harder for them to get iGaming licenses than
commercial casinos.

The Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling also points out that no state with
regulated online gaming has met their revenue projections.

At the time of this writing, the State Senate is still mulling over SB 203
before a potential vote.

SB 889 also went to the Senate in 2016, but never got to a vote. It’s tough
to say whether SB 203 will fare any better.

Our guess is that the legislation won’t make it through the State Senate,
House and receive a governor’s signature one year after SB 889 was defeated. But
we wouldn’t be surprised if a similar bill is passed by 2019.

How do I Choose a Good Online Casino?

If you’re going to play at offshore casinos, poker sites and/or sportsbooks,
you want to pick the best ones possible.

And we highly suggest that you check out reviews before signing up and
depositing anywhere. You should also visit the sites themselves and look around.

Here are some key points to consider when reading through reviews and
visiting sites:

  • Longevity
  • The longer
    a gaming company has been in business, the more confidence you can have that
    they’re a good site which cares about customers.

  • Reputability
  • Has a
    site had any major incidents in the past? Does their customer support brush
    players off? You certainly doesn’t want to choose a casino or poker room
    that can answer yes to either of these questions.

  • Banking Options
  • The
    Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) prevents American
    financial institutions from processing (unlicensed) online gaming
    transactions. This makes it tougher for offshore sites to offer a wide
    variety of deposit options. Moreover, you must choose a site with a banking
    option you can use.

  • Cashout Processing Speed
  • Some offshore gaming companies take weeks or even months to process
    withdrawals. Obviously you don’t want to wait this long for your money,
    which makes this a crucial factor.

  • Bonus Terms & Conditions
  • Don’t put up with insane wagering requirements on welcome and
    reload bonuses. Instead, pick a site that offers reasonable bonus wagering
    requirements.

  • Game Variety
  • It’s
    always more fun to play at casinos, poker rooms and sports betting sites
    with a large variety.

More Gambling Laws in Michigan

  • Casino Games (Ilegal)
  • Poker (Legal)
  • Race Betting (Legal)
  • Lottery (Legal)
  • Charitable Gaming (Legal)
  • Social Gambling (Illegal)

Casino Games: Illegal


The 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) gives Native-American tribes and
states the ability to negotiate casino compacts. Michigan and their tribes did
so in 1993, with tribal casinos launching shortly thereafter.

In 1999, the MGM Grand Detroit became the first major casino resort in a
metropolitan area outside of Las Vegas. MotorCity Casino opened later the same
year, while Greektown Casino launched in 2000.

This makes Detroit one of the largest casino hubs in the U.S. As a whole,
Michigan has 20 casino (11 tribal / 13 commercial).

It’s safe to say that if the state ever legalizes online gaming, there will
be plenty of interested casino suitors.

Charitable Gambling: Legal


Charity gaming is legal in Michigan under certain circumstances.

One circumstance is that approved/licensed charities can only hold bingos,
raffles and “millionaire parties.” The other is that only specific groups are
allowed to participate.

According to Section 432.103(g), these groups include the following:

“A bona fide religious, educational, service, senior citizens, fraternal, or
veterans’ organization that operates without profit to its members and that
either has been in existence continuously as an organization for a period of 5
years or is exempt from taxation under section 501(c) of the internal revenue
code of 1986, 26 USC 501.”

Lottery: Legal


Michigan was one of the earliest states to launch their lottery, doing so in
1972. The Bureau of the State Lottery oversees this gambling sector.

The Michigan Lottery offers 10 games, including Club Keno, Daily 3, Daily 4,
Fantasy 5 Match, Lotto 47, Lucky 4 Life, Keno, Mega Millions, Powerball and
Poker Lotto.

Poker: Legal


Live poker is permitted in every tribal casino and the three Detroit casinos.
None of Michigan’s poker rooms are particularly large, with MotorCity being the
biggest at 17 tables.

Racing: Legal


The Great Lake State legalized pari-mutuel betting in 1993.

Due to poor financial performance, Michigan’s horseracing industry was
amended in 2010, and the Office of Racing Commissioner was phased out.

Today, the Michigan Gaming Control Board oversees pari-mutuel betting and the
state’s 7 racetracks.

Social Gambling: Illegal


As covered with Section 750.314, it’s illegal for people to make bets outside
of what’s approved by law. No exceptions are made for social gaming, therefore
the activity is assumed illegal.

We haven’t seen any incidents where a non-raked home gambling function was
busted, but we did find an incident where a
Detroit-area banquet hall was raided
.

One point worth making is that the game involved over 50 people and nearly
$100,000 total. Another aspect is that the banquet hall owners were selling
alcohol during the tournament.

Even in states that allow charity gambling, the hosts aren’t supposed to
profit in any way. The fact that the hall owners sold liquor only made the game
a greater target.

Gambling Venues in Michigan

We discussed earlier how Michigan has a thriving casino scene, with venues
located all over the state.

The three largest casinos are clustered in the Detroit metropolitan area,
which is home to 4.29 million people.

The majority of the tribal casinos are found near Lake Michigan, going from
the bottom part of the state up to the Upper Peninsula.

Speaking of the Upper Peninsula, this is home to 10 casinos despite just
over 311,000 people living in this rural area. We imagine that tourism must help
support these casinos.

Below you can see some commercial and tribal gaming establishments in the
state:

Michigan Map

    1) Bay Mills Resort & Casino

    11386 W Lakeshore Dr, Brimley, MI 49715

    2) Greektown Casino Hotel

    555 E Lafayette St, Detroit, MI 48226

    3) Gun Lake Casino

    1123 129th Ave, Wayland, MI 49348

    4) FireKeepers Casino Hotel

    11177 E Michigan Ave, Battle Creek, MI 49014

    5) Island Resort & Casino

    W 399 US-2, Harris, MI 49845

    6) MGM Grand Detroit

    1777 3rd Ave, Detroit, MI 48226

    7) Kewadin Casino

    7761 Candy Cane Lane, Christmas, MI 49862

    8) Little River Casino & Resort

    2700 Orchard Hwy, Manistee, MI 49660

    9) MotorCity Casino Hotel

    2901 Grand River Ave, Detroit, MI 48201

    10) Saganing Eagles Landing

    2690 Worth Rd, Standish, MI 48658

    11) Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel

    7741 M72 East, Williamsburg, MI 49690

History of Gambling in Michigan

Founded in 1837, Michigan waited almost a full century to get involved in the
legal matters of gambling.

Michigan Gov. John Engler negotiated a tribal gaming pact with the state’s
tribes in the early 1990s. This launched the casino era in Michigan, with over a
dozen tribal casinos opening by 1996.

Yet another casino boom happened in 1999, when the first of three gambling
resorts opened in Detroit.

As their history shows, the Great Lake State has never shied away from
gambling. Hopefully the next big move involves them legalizing online gaming.

1935

State Legislature legalizes pari-mutuel betting; Suffolk Downs opens the same year.

1971

Massachusetts State Lottery approved.

1999

Plainridge Park racetrack opens and begins offering harness racing.

2011

Legislature and voters approve Expanded Gaming Act, which allows for three commercial casino licenses and one slots parlor.

2012

Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe agrees to casino compact with state, but they’re rejected by Indian Bureau of Affairs.

2013

Sen. Flanagan begins discussions on regulated online gaming.

2014

Anti-casino lobbying group launches referendum to stop casinos; voters defeat bill by 60%/40% ratio.

2014

MGM and Wynn awarded two of the state’s three casino-resort licenses.

2015

Plainridge Park Casino begins soft launch

Michigan Gambling FAQs

Michigan’s online gaming market is far from clear due to the absence of
language in their criminal code, which leads to a lot of common iGaming-related
questions.

That said, let’s look at some of the biggest FAQs regarding the state’s
internet gambling.

Are Daily Fantasy Sports Legal?

The Michigan Gaming Control Board questioned whether or not daily fantasy
sport (DFS) are illegal in 2015, but no move was ever made to ban DFS.

This means that industry leaders DraftKings and FanDuel continue operating in
Michigan.

The state currently has two bills on the table to legalize DFS; SB 461 and SB
462 both seek to legalize and regulate the activity.

Michigan also has HB 4060 up for review, which seeks to legalize sports
betting. Odds are slim that this will pass because New Jersey lost a federal
lawsuit to legalize sports wagering.

If things ever change, the Wolverine State could be one of the newest states
to add sportsbooks in its casinos.

Has Michigan Ever Busted an Online Gaming Site?

We’ve mentioned multiple times how Michigan’s online gambling market is a
grey area, which allows numerous online casinos, poker rooms and sportsbooks to
operate in their market.

But this doesn’t mean that Michigan has never taken action against an online
operator.

They were part of a 2010 sting that

nabbed a $178 million online sports betting ring
.

Michigan police conducted search and seizures to collect property and
millions of dollars in connection with the case. Others that participated in the
sting included Arizona, Florida, Louisiana and Nevada.

38 people were arrested on enterprise corruption charges.

The operation featured sports betting sites in Costa Rica where bets on
pro/college baseball, basketball, football and hockey were taken. The sites in
question were CrownSports.com and JazzSports.com.

Obviously, this case should make offshore operators leery of serving Michigan
(or any of the other states involved in the 2010 bust).

Why doesn’t Michigan Have Legal Online Casinos?

The entire U.S. has been slow to embrace internet gaming. In fact, Delaware,
Nevada and New Jersey are the only states that have legalized the activity so
far.

Most states have taken a wait-and-see approach, hoping to see how successful
these three states are with online gaming.

New Jersey is the only moderate success story right now, which is mainly due
to them having a large population (8.96m) and legalizing both casino & poker
games.

Michigan has an even larger population (9.92m), and past/current legislative
efforts include both casino and poker products.

If they indeed regulate online gaming, they’ll be a success just like New
Jersey.

Additional Resources

This state has two main gaming authorities, including the Michigan Lottery
and the Michigan Gaming Commission. Here’s a closer look at both of these
agencies along with additional resources:

  • Michigan Gaming Commission
  • The Gaming Commission handles many gambling-related duties for the state,
    including licensing casinos, enforcing gaming regulations and overseeing the
    racing industry. The website above explains many topics regarding the state’s
    casino and racing industries.

  • Michigan Lottery
  • The Michigan Lottery runs the state’s 10 lottery games. They also promote
    these products and handle payouts for winners.


  • Michigan Gaming Control Revenue Act
  • This site features information on the Gaming Control Revenue Act, which was
    signed into effect in 1996. The website explains the legislation, including many
    topics regarding commercial and tribal casinos.

The Future & Your Views

Unlike California, New York and Pennsylvania, Michigan doesn’t steal
headlines for their online gaming pursuits. But they’re right in the thick of
the matter, and could become the next state with a regulated market.

The Great Lake State has the elements needed to succeed in this realm,
including the following:

  • Large population.
  • Plenty of interested
    casinos.
  • Long-standing casino
    market that’s eager for growth.
  • Legislation that seeks
    both casino and poker games.

Unfortunately, Michigan also has roadblocks to overcome before they legalize
the activity.

The biggest is tribal gaming interests, who feel that they have a smaller
chance of obtaining licensing through SB 203.

We’ve seen a rift between tribal casinos and lawmakers ground online poker
legislation in California for several years. The hope is that the same thing
doesn’t happen here.

But even if it takes time for all sides to come to an agreement, Michigan is
still poised to become one of the earliest states with legal online gaming.