The legislature in Michigan will be shutting the current session down in just a couple of weeks, but online poker has gained momentum and may end up seeing a final vote before July. Recently The Regulatory Reform Committee passed a bill by a vote of eight to one and will now be sending it to the State Senate floor for a final vote. What does this really mean for online poker?
Statewide, Michigan has around two dozen gaming facilities run by tribes and three casinos operating in Detroit. The casinos in Detroit alone bring in $1.37 billion in revenue each year and this could drastically increase that amount. According to the bill, these casinos would be the persons responsible for operating online poker rooms.
The bill, sponsored by Sen Mike Kowall, the Senate Majority Floor Leader, states that applicants must pay $100,000 to apply and $5 million for an internet gaming license. The license fee would essentially be an advance payment on the taxes the operators will pay on their online gaming revenue.
This preliminary passage, by a margin of 8-1, comes after three years of online casino progress. In 2014, the state passed an online lottery and PokerStars has been interested in joining the online gaming market since then. In early May, they testified at a hearing in support of the bill along with the Poker Players Alliance.
Despite this margin in the vote, there is still some opposition to the bill. The senate Majority Leader, Arlan Meekhof, hasn’t publicly stated where they stand on poker and the Michigan Attorney General, along with perhaps the governor, have been champions of banning any extension of online gaming.
Tribes could also be a problem. They may be asked to give up their sovereign immunity in order to participate in a legal gaming venture, although the extent of the amendments aren’t yet known. The amendments are not all public knowledge, so we will have to wait and see what could change before the bill comes up for a vote.
There is also not even an accompanying bill in the House, meaning legislation would have to be written and passed again on the other side of the Capitol. It could take longer than expected, though, due to the current water crisis in Flint, which is bogging down the legislature until a resolution is reached with that as well as the state budget. Progress may be slow, but there is hope.
Publicly, PokerStars has chalked this up as a win. In truth, it is a huge step and is the closes that many states have come to passing new online poker laws. Amazingly, Michigan wasn’t even on the radar of most poker advocates at the start of 2016, so it has gained a large amount of momentum in a short amount of time. Even if it does not reach the floor for a vote during this session, this shows an incredible amount of promise.