Michigan Taking Another Look at Online Gaming Legislation

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The debate over Michigan’s potential legalization of online gambling has been rumbling on for over a year now and while in recent months everything seemed to have gone quiet, May has seen yet more new revamps to the online gaming bill which will hopefully see it passed before summer recess. This most recent change to the bill is just one more in a string of adjustments but it is hoped that this will be the one that finally does the trick of legalizing internet gambling in the state.

H4926 – The Latest Draft

Although Representative Brandt Iden, the sponsor of the online gaming bill has high hopes of the bill being passed before June 21st, to most of the bill’s advocates this still seems to be an overly optimistic timeline, with the most recent draft of H4926 unlikely to come up until after the election in November.

H4926 has been through numerous incarnations, and it seems to be every couple of months that the state’s online gaming bill is brought out and adjusted to appease Michigan’s commercial casinos and gaming tribes. So far, all of the proposals have ended up being shelved, and it seems that these most recent changes to the bill won’t be enough yet again to win support from both commercial casinos and tribes in the state, who are strongly opposed to the idea of online gambling stealing their existing business.

The Tribal Problem

States that have both commercial and tribal casinos are especially difficult to appease when it comes to online casinos. Perhaps the most problematic example to date has to be California’s legalization of online poker, however Michigan looks set to be following close behind as the state with the most problems in pursuing legalization of online gambling. It seems to come as no surprise that the 4 states which have already agreed to legalization of online gambling – Pennsylvania, Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey – have no tribal casinos within their jurisdictions.

No Gaming Expansion

Perhaps an even more problematic issue when it comes to legalizing online gambling than the ability to win over tribal casino support is the claim by Rep Iden that such a legalization would not represent any gaming expansion, and thus require no constitutional amendment in order to be passed as law. Iden has pointed out that he is only trying to address the issue surrounding the constitutional status of the legislation, saying that it is merely regulating activities which are currently ongoing within the state’s black market.

A number of states which require constitutional amendments in order to expand their gaming have already questioned whether gambling in locations that have already been authorized to permit online gaming represent gambling expansions, or a brand new game. In New York, the belief appears to be that it represents a gambling expansion since online opportunities have been eschewed by the state in favor of online poker, a game which is set to be given the classification of a “game of skill” so no constitutional amendment will be required.

While Rep Iden believes that the bill would be fully constitutional, opponents of the bill have tried hard to discredit it, and legal experts also disagree with his opinion, saying that the primary legal argument is that public voting will be required in order for online gaming legislation to be passed as law in the state. With all of this taken into account, the chances of an online gambling bill being passed at any time within 2018 looks unlikely. However, as long as the bill is still active, fans of internet betting in Michigan will hold high hopes.

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