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In any case, SB 562 was repealed the following year as libertarianism swept through the State Legislature.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The absence of anti-internet gaming legislation doesn't make it legal either, but the politicians who repealed the ban must have thought that it infringed on people's rights.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:
- Banking Options
- Cashout Processing Speed
- Bonus Terms & Conditions
- Game Variety
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.
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.
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.
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.
Don't put up with insane wagering requirements on welcome and reload bonuses. Instead, pick a site that offers reasonable bonus wagering requirements.
It's always more fun to play at casinos, poker rooms and sports betting sites with a large variety.
Breaking down what exactly is or isn't legal in Michigan. Gambling Venues in Michigan
Where to gamble in the state of Michigan. The History of Gaming Laws in Michigan
A brief history of Michigan laws regarding gambling. Michigan Gambling FAQs
A list of questions asked about gambling in Nebraska Additional Information
Still have questions? Check out these links. The Future of Gambling in Michigan
What does the future of gambling look like in Michigan?
More Gambling Laws in Michigan
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."
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.
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.
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:
Bay Mills Resort & Casino
11386 W Lakeshore Dr, Brimley, MI 49715
Greektown Casino Hotel
555 E Lafayette St, Detroit, MI 48226
Gun Lake Casino
1123 129th Ave, Wayland, MI 49348
FireKeepers Casino Hotel
11177 E Michigan Ave, Battle Creek, MI 49014
Island Resort & Casino
W 399 US-2, Harris, MI 49845
MGM Grand Detroit
1777 3rd Ave, Detroit, MI 48226
Christmas N7761 Candy Cane Lane, Christmas, MI 49862
Little River Casino & Resort
2700 Orchard Hwy, Manistee, MI 49660
MotorCity Casino Hotel
2901 Grand River Ave, Detroit, MI 48201
Saganing Eagles Landing
2690 Worth Rd, Standish, MI 48658
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.
State Legislature approves pari-mutuel betting.
Gov. Engler negotiates casino pact with Native American tribes. Pari-mutual horseracing betting is legalized
MGM Grand and MotorCity Casino open.
Greektown Casino becomes third casino in Detroit.
Online lottery bill passes.
SB 889, which sought to legalize iGaming, passes Senate Regulatory Reform Committee; but it doesn't get a full Senate vote.
Michigan Lottery approved and launched; charity gaming is legalized the same year.
Proposal E allows three commercial casino resorts to be built in Detroit.
State Legislature passes SB 562 to ban internet gaming.
SB 562 is repealed through Public Act 185.
Michigan Gaming Control Board begins overseeing pari-mutuel betting.
Sen. Kowall introduces SB 203, which seeks to regulate iGaming. The bill has passed the Senate Committee on Regulatory Reform.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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:
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.
The Michigan Lottery runs the state's 10 lottery games. They also promote these products and handle payouts for winners.
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.