New Michigan online bill makes fast progress

News on 20 May 2017

When lawmakers put their backs into it – especially in Michigan – it’s surprising how quickly bills can progress.

Earlier this year state Senate Majority Leader Mike Kowall struggled to drive an online gambling legalisation bill – S203 – through the committee system to a floor vote, only to see it languish. In sharp contrast, HB4611, a bill authored by Rep. Dan Lauwers and introduced earlier this month which seeks to permit parimutuel horse betting via mobile devices, is making rapid progress.

The bill proposes the amendment of the Michigan Horse Racing Law of 1995, which requires punters to be physically present at a racetrack or inside an off-track betting (OTB) facility in order to bet.

Lauwers’s bill would change that to allow intrastate bets to be placed via appropriately licensed third party apps on mobile devices.

The motivation for the amendment is to attract a new demographic to racing – one that makes extensive use of mobile devices and would not otherwise physically visit the tracks. That in turn would increase revenues…and the state government’s cut.

The bill proposes that the state’s five racetracks be allowed to partner with app third party providers, spreading the benefit.

Introduced in early May, HB4611 has attracted strong political support and has sailed through the committee stages in the House. However, it has encountered some opposition from land casino operators, who claim that it represents an expansion of state gambling and amounts to legalised online gambling. Any expansion of gambling in the state requires voter approval, a process that could take months to organise.

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