JCJ Architecture rendering of the new Gun Lake Casino expansion.
Legislation to permit retail sportsbooks at existing casinos and affiliate, online sports betting platforms passed the Michigan Senate by 35-3 and the Michigan House by similarly wide margins on Wednesday. Nine of 10 bills are now headed to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s desk for her expected signatures.
It’s been a long journey for Michigan to approve and regulate sports betting and casino-style gaming online, “but the end is in sight, and with it a great opportunity for Michigan will begin,” said state Rep. Brandt Iden, R-Oshtemo Township, a major sponsor of the package.
Michigan is unique in that it’s home to 23 Tribal casinos. To offer retail sportsbooks, Tribal casinos would pay an 8.4% tax to the state, whereas Detroit’s three casinos would pay 11.75% in tax — including the 3.25% tax imposed by the city.
“Of all the states that have adopted, none have a Tribal component to the extent that Michigan has,” Iden said. “With 23 Tribal casinos, we are the largest state that has adopted this.”
Meanwhile, tax rates for online casino gaming would be levied at the 20% to 28% tier, based on revenue. Higher revenues would entail higher rates. Detroit casinos would pay a rate 3.25% higher, to reflect the city tax, so 31.25% at the high mark.
Nine out of 10 bills were sent to the governor; the remaining bill is expected to be voted on early next year. It deals with a penalty provision, not the central legalization.
Gov. Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown has referred to the legislation as “a good, bipartisan solution.” The legislation package is slated to bolster the School Aid Fund by $35-50 million through sports betting tax revenue in the first year, generating upward of $100 million once Internet gaming tax revenue is factored in, Iden said.
State Sen. Curtis Hertel, D-East Lansing, told the Detroit News that eventually every casino in Michigan will offer some form of sports betting, or they’d be operating at a “competitive disadvantage.”
Assuming Gov. Whitmer greenlights the legislation, the time before patrons are casting bets depends on the time it takes to pass rules to regulate sports betting, the time to apply for and acquire licensing, and the window for operators to install technology for sports betting and online gaming.
Some lawmakers speculate that Michigan casinos could be legally operating sportsbooks in March. “My hope is that by March Madness, it will be live,” said Hertel of the NCAA basketball tournament.
MGM Grand Detroit has preemptively opened its Moneyline Sports Lounge, acting as a sports bar with 60 televisions in the interim.