Online Poker Bill Introduced in Michigan
On March 1st, Michigan State Senator Michael Kowall (R – District 15) introduced Senate Bill 0203, which aims to legalize and regulate poker in the state. It has been referred to the Committee on Regulatory Reform, but beyond that has not seen any action yet.
The bill would create the “Lawful Internet Gaming Act” and would permit the state’s casinos to apply for internet gaming licenses.* The simple act of filing an application would cost $100,000. Licenses would last for five years; the licensing fee would be $200,000 the first year and $100,000 per year thereafter.
For companies or people who wish to be online gaming service providers, doing things like supplying software or equipment to the actual online poker operators, the application fee would be $5,000. The first year’s license would be $5,000 and each subsequent year would cost $2,500.
The state would tax operators 10 percent on their gross gaming revenue.
The regulations the bill puts forth are pretty standard. Players must be 21-years old and be located within state borders, operators must use technologies that can verify those two qualifiers as well as satisfactorily detect “fraud, money laundering, and collusion,” and players can self-exclude (operators must also be sure they can prevent those that are excluded from playing).
So, fairly straight-forward stuff right there. There are pages of rules about tribal casinos, but there is no need to detail those out here except to state that the bill would require tribes to forego their tribal sovereignty when it comes to internet gaming and submit to the state’s rules.
At the outset of the bill, the case for online poker is explained:
The legislature finds that the internet has become an integral part of everyday life for a significant number of residents of this state, not only in regard to their professional lives, but also in regard to personal business and communication. Internet wagering on games of chance and games of skill is a core form of entertainment for millions of individuals worldwide. In multiple jurisdictions across the world, internet gaming is legal, regulated, and taxed, generating billions of dollars in revenue for governments.
In order to protect residents of this state who wager on games of chance or skill through the internet and to capture revenues and create jobs generated from internet gaming, 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.
Summary: let’s stop ignoring the fact that internet gambling is a thing, that people enjoy it, and that we should put consumer protections in place for those who want to participate.
Should the bill eventually make it through the entire legislative process and become law, the division of internet gaming – which would be established with the bill – would be required to put all of the rules into effect within one year of the bill’s passage. Operators would then have to wait another 150 days from that point to start offering games. Thus, while the introduction of this Michigan online poker bill is a great first step, it could still be at least a couple years before Michiganders are playing.
*Tribal casinos must offer Class III gaming – house-backed games like blackjack or roulette – for eligibility.
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