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Is sports betting coming to Michigan?

Lawmaker estimates millions in revenue could have been gathered from NCAA tournament gambling alone.

May 25, 2018
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The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that individual states will be able to decide the legality of sports betting. Courtesy Thinkstockphotos.com

Commercial sports betting may be on the horizon in Michigan.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court voted to override a 26-year-old law that prohibited gambling in most states.

According to Michael Huff, an attorney with Mika Meyers, the ruling was a result of an anti-commandeering principle, which prevents the federal government from telling states what to do.

Now, states are free to pass legislation to legalize sports betting on professional and amateur sports games, which is a $150-billion industry, according to the New York Times.

In December, State Rep. Brandt Iden, R-Kalamazoo, introduced a proposal to legalize online casino gaming. The Michigan House Regulatory Reform Committee approved the proposal, and Iden said he will continue to move full steam ahead.

“I am continuing to work with my colleagues in the House on my current online gaming legislation, which includes sports betting,” Iden said. “I also believe that additional legislation will come up before the end of the year regulating in-casino sports wagering."

He said illegal sports betting already is going on throughout the state. According to Iden, he and other members of the House who are sponsoring the bill want to institute a regulatory structure required to protect citizens from unscrupulous actors, as well as allowing the state to collect the tax revenue.

The state's gambling law, Michigan Gambling and Revenue Act, only operates in three Detroit casinos, and they are on nontribal land, according to Michigan Gaming Control Board spokesperson Mary Kay Bean.

The proposed bill will give tribal casinos, such as Wayland-based Gun Lake Casino, an opportunity to participate in sports gambling if the bill is signed into law. The National Indian Gaming Commission currently regulates tribal casinos.

Iden said if the bill is passed this year, it would require a one-year window to allow casinos an “opportunity to get their operations in place, and wagering could be in place by 2020.”

Although he said there is no projection of how much revenue the state will bring in if the law is passed, he said he estimates there will be a substantial revenue increase.

“We have seen reports that billions of dollars were illegally wagered in Michigan throughout the month of March on the NCAA tournament,” Iden said. “If taxes would have been levied on those wagers, it could have equated to millions of dollars in potential revenue for our state, which could have been used to fix our crumbling roads or provide educational opportunities for the children of our state.”

Huff said he foresees that not only will sports gambling increase revenue for the state, but professional sports teams and universities can benefit because it will draw more viewership.

“When people (wager) money on sporting events, it tends to deepen engagement,” Huff said. “People tend to watch more games, buy more of their products, which turns around to generate more advertising revenues. So, there are definitely some revenue and fan-engagement opportunities.”

When the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was passed in 1992 prohibiting sports gambling, the idea was to protect the integrity of the game, and prevent game-fixing and corruption.

"The biggest thing you hear over time is that it has a negative community impact and in-arena experience, especially on children," Huff said.

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