Proponents of Michigan’s online gambling bill, SB 889, are still optimistic that the legislation that would legalize and regulate online gambling can still get through the House and Senate before the 2016 session ends.
The bill was first introduced in April by Michigan State Senator Mike Kowall. On May 4, an informational hearing on online gambling and SB 889 was held by the Michigan Regulatory Reform Committee in which representatives of Poker Players Alliance and PokerStars discussed the benefits of online gambling legalization. Online gambling industry representatives also discussed the existing technology that online poker sites have in place that ensures compliance with industry regulations. On June 9, the Regulatory Reform Committee voted 8-1 in favor of SB 889 and referred the bill to the Committee of the Whole, which meant that
The components of the bill are similar to online gambling bills introduced in other states. An application for a license will cost $100,000 and the license itself will cost $5 million. The license fee will be held in escrow for future tax payments (at a 10% rate) on internet wagering. Candidates for online gambling licenses will be limited to only casino license holders and also to Michigan Indian tribes operating a gaming facility. The licenses would be valid for five years with a renewable option of three and then five year periods.
Another interesting component of the bill addresses the issue of interstate gambling alliances. It reads, “Allow a wager to be accepted from an individual not physically present in the State if certain conditions were met.” This one sentence would establish a precedent to allow interstate online gambling agreements with other states, if the opportunity ever arose.
For now, with elections over and the current legislative session winding down, there still is a window of opportunity to get SB 889 passed in 2016. Senator Kowall has always stated that he thought the best time to push the bill through would be at the tail end of the session. In December, the Senate has ten scheduled session days while the House has seven scheduled days. The first session day likely won’t see much progress on anything, but after that, the Senate, which has already spent significant review time on SB 889, needs to pass the bill promptly in order to give the House time to review and vote.
If the bill doesn’t get acted on before this 2016 session closes, the sense of urgency will be over. The bill will have to be re-introduced in 2017, and in all probability, it will get kicked down the road, just like the proverbial can.