The gambling industry has been eagerly following developments in the state of Michigan where the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee recently met to hold a discussion on the online gambling expansion bill proposed by State Senator Mike Kowall and co-sponsored by Senators Curtis Hertel Jr., Rebekah Warren, Bert Johnson, and Marty Knollenberg.
Known as SB 889, the bill proposes to authorize online poker and other online casino games while also permitting out of state play as long as local or federal laws were not broken. The bill would also limit the number of online gaming licenses to eight and would set the licensing fee at $5 million. The bill also proposed a 10% gross gaming revenue tax. Interestingly, tribal casinos would also be required to waive their sovereignty to a limited extent in order to qualify for an online gambling license.
Michigan is a relatively new entrant to the online gambling field which is why there is a great deal of interest surrounding the hearing. The people who testified at the hearing included John Pappas the Executive Director of Poker Players Alliance, Michael Pollock, the Managing Director of Spectrum Gaming Group, David Murley, Deputy Director of the Michigan Gaming Control Board, and three senior executives from gambling major Amaya. There were also written statements from senior executives of three different Michigan casinos.
SB 889 is the result of three year’s work by Senator Mike Kowall, and it indicates that there is immense demand to have a proper online gambling legislation in place as soon as possible. However, even though Amaya has been lobbying very energetically for the law, it also seems that no one is willing to be the first one to take concrete steps on the issue. Furthermore, there are other states as well which have been conducting discussions regarding gambling over the past few years.
Even though the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee hearing did not have any positive outcome, the gambling industry can take heart from the fact that there was no vocal opposition to it. Besides, any concerns expressed by lawmakers during the hearing were addressed by the witnesses who were called to the hearing. They focused on providing details about the importance placed by well-managed and authorized gambling sites on security and responsible gaming. In fact, one witness even went on to compare the online security features of PokerStars to traditional banks.
One of the most interesting things about the law is that it might get the tribal groups in the state to relinquish some of their sovereignty in order to operate as a commercial company. It remains to be seen whether they will accept the law as such or consider it as a deal breaker. Interestingly, the tribal groups haven’t yet released a statement regarding the proposed law.
The state of Michigan might very likely legalize online gambling by the year 2017 if the law is able to get the support it requires. Therefore, the hearing represents a significant step even though it might seem to be a relatively small event and Michigan residents will eventually be able to play Double Bubble slots and other popular games on the internet.