Gov. Whitmer Signs Bills, Michigan Enters ‘Modern Era of Gaming’

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed bills Friday that pave the way for sports betting, online gaming and regulated fantasy sports betting in Michigan. 

The Michigan Department of Treasury estimates the new laws will generate $19 million in new revenue to the state — funds Gov. Whitmer sees as critical to bolster education across the state. 

In a statement, Gov. Whitmer called the bills a “real partisan win” for the state, adding: “My top priority in signing this legislation was protecting and investing in the School Aid Fund, because our students deserve leaders who put their education first. Thanks in part to the hard work and leadership of Senator [Curtis] Hertel [D-East Lansing] and Representative [Rebekah] Warren [D-Ann Arbor], these bills will put more dollars in Michigan classrooms and increase funding for firefighters battling cancer.”

Michigan became the 20th state in the nation, and second-biggest state in the Midwest behind Illinois, to permit sports betting, according to the American Gaming Association (AGA). Sports betting is currently legal in 13 states, sports betting has been approved but is not yet operational in 7 states and D.C., bills were introduced in 2019 to legalize sports betting in 8 states, and legislative efforts to legalize sports betting in 2019 have died in 19 states, according to the AGA. 

American Gaming Association map

Rep. Brandt Iden, R-Oshtemo Twp., the lead sponsor on the bills, said Michigan has now entered “the modern era of gaming.”

Michigan’s first wagers are anticipated in three months’ time — ideally in time for March Madness, the NCAA collegiate basketball tournament. 

Existing casinos can apply for licenses to operate retail sportsbooks and affiliate, online sports betting platforms. 

Michigan is unique in that it’s home to 23 Tribal casinos. To offer retail sportsbooks, Tribal casinos will pay an 8.4% tax to the state, whereas Detroit’s three casinos will pay 11.75% in tax — including the 3.25% tax imposed by the city. 

Prior to the bill’s approval, MGM Grand Detroit preemptively opened its then-free-play Moneyline Sports Lounge, currently acting as a sports bar with 60 televisions in the interim.

Sports betting will begin with wagers placed at physical brick-and-mortar casinos in the state before regulators set firm policies for online bets. Tax rates for online casino gaming will likely 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.

The new Michigan law pertaining to fantasy sports, allows participants to bet legally in commercial and private fantasy leagues.