The possibility of playing online poker and other casino games is suddenly a reality for residents of Michigan.
Michigan’s House of Representatives voted 68-40 in favor of passing a bill that would establish a Lawful Internet Gaming Act in the state.
Bill H 4926 was originally introduced in the house by Rep. Brandt Iden last year, but never really got off the ground. This year it passed out of committee and to a floor vote — and just in the nick of time, as the legislature is about to break for summer recess.
That’s huge progress for the bill, but before poker industry proponents get too excited, with the current legislative session coming to a close, the bill will have to wait until the fall before the state senate considers it.
Breaking Down Bill Components
So what’s in Michigan’s new online gaming bill?
It would create a new branch within the Michigan Gaming Control Board called the Division of Internet Gaming. The new department would be responsible for handing out internet gaming licenses to existing physical casinos in the state.
Those casinos could then offer their games through an online platform, including poker, and eventually sports betting if the state decides to legalize that. Last month, the US Supreme Court struck down PASPA, opening the door for states to create their own regulations around sports betting.
It will cost the casinos $800,000 for a five year-license. That includes the three casinos in Detroit, as well as the 23 tribal casinos in Michigan, although those facilities would have to negotiate new compacts with the state first.
The bill would impose an 8 percent tax on gross gaming revenues. The city of Detroit would take a 55 percent cut of that. Five percent would each go towards state school and transportation funds, while the remaining 35 percent would go towards the Internet Gaming Fund, which enforces gaming regulations.
It was the right vote to make, according to the man who introduced the bill.
“People in Michigan are already gambling over the internet, but they are doing so at risky and illegal websites,” Rep. Iden told the Associated Press. “The Michigan websites will have strict state oversight, unlike the illegal and unregulated sites our resident use now.”
Diving into Poker Pool?
Since Michigan casinos spread live poker games, it follows that holding an internet gaming license would allow them to offer online poker as well.
It’s too early to say, however, exactly how that will play out in Michigan. Earlier this year, Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada entered into an agreement to share player pools for online poker, but whether Michigan would join the poker party is not known.
Pennsylvania is already proceeding with online poker and is expected to enter into the shared liquidity agreement with those states. It’s possible Michigan could eventually join as well, but they would have to negotiate their own shared liquidity deal first.
Stay tuned. We could find out more when the Michigan Senate addresses following their summer break in September.