Michigan Regulatory Reform Committee Discusses Internet Gambling Bill

Lawmakers in the state of Michigan met last week to debate upon an online gambling bill introduced by Senator Mike Kowall. The legislation in question, SB 889, was the subject of a discussion by the Michigan Regulatory Reform Committee and along with an amendment SB 890 it was proposed in order to bring legality to online casino games and poker. Also known as the Lawful Internet Gaming Act, the bill wouldn’t just legalize but also regulate certain forms of online gambling in the state.

The hearing of the Michigan Regulatory Reform Committee consisted of nine members including Senator Tory Rocca who chairs it. The hearing included testimony from four members of the industry who spoke in support of the bill, including John Pappas, the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) president. Interestingly and surprisingly, the three brick and mortar businesses located in the state, namely Greektown Casino, MGM Grand Detroit Casino, and MotorCity Casino, did not have an opinion about the proposed legislation. However, it has to be noted that they did not oppose the bill even if they didn’t support it.

What the Bill Entails

According to SB 899, the state will grant only eight gambling licenses which will only be available to existing Michigan land based gambling operations as well as the tribal casinos. The licenses will cost $5 million each after which operators will be required to pay the government a gross gaming revenue tax of 10%. The bill also is intended to put in place certain regulatory mechanisms for protection of consumers. In fact, this was an important component of John Pappas’ testimony.

Online Gambling Already a Reality

Residents of Michigan, and indeed of other parts of the United States, enjoy gambling on the internet irrespective of whether the law permits this activity or not. Many Americans visit online gambling sites operating from offshore jurisdictions so that they can play a wide range of casino games and slot games such as the wildly popular Double Bubble slot. If the state provides them with a well managed gambling infrastructure then they won’t have to worry about falling victim to online scammers. At the same time the state stands to gain a lot of money from taxes raised from the gambling industry since the business is expected to grow at a very fast pace.

Will the Bill Finally Become Law?

Last week’s hearing on SB 889 did not result in anything conclusive since no vote was eventually taken. However, since the Michigan state legislature is scheduled to adjourn on June 16th for the summer, lawmakers will have to come to a decision on the bill soon in order to prevent it from being postponed to the next session. This is without doubt an important bill and its progress in the legislature is being followed by the gambling industry with a great deal of interest. In case the bill does manage to become law then Michigan will join three other states in the US that have already made online gambling legal.

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