Legalised online gambling back on the table in Michigan?

News on 11 Jul 2017

Reports from Michigan are that S.203, an online gambling bill introduced to the Senate in March this year, has resurfaced with some changes after a period in which it appeared to languish after passing the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee (see previous  reports).

Early reports indicate that the bill in general remains as originally proposed, but has some interesting additional provisions, presumably inserted to placate existing casino licensees and tribal groups that have compacts with the state on gambling – a potential minefield for state politicians.

Alongside existing proposals that licensing be confined to licensed Michigan land casino operators; players must be at least 21 years old; and that the state has the authority to enter into agreements with similarly-minded other states, S.203 now grants the tribes the right as sovereign governments to self-regulate (with strict requirements) any tribal online gambling operations on which they may embark in Michigan as part of their compacts with the state.

That frees them from the original proposal that all regulation and licensing would be via the state Gaming Control Board – a potential challenge to tribal sovereignty.

It has now transpired that the original S.203 was opposed by prominent tribal operators guarding against the erosion of their tribal privileges, leading to amendments aimed at assuaging tribal fears.

S.203 remains in the Senate at present, and the possible reaction of the state House is as yet uncertain. However, there appears to be a long haul ahead in getting all the interested parties on-side.

Original proposals in S.203 regarding licence fees are extremely competitive with the multi-million dollar packages suggested in other states, and should appeal to the so far largely neutral land
operators; a five year operating licence will cost just $200,000 in the first year and $100,000 annually thereafter…and the suggested tax rate is a very reasonable 10 percent of GGR.

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