Michigan could soon legalize sports betting, online gambling

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Long-discussed legislation to expand legalized gambling in Michigan will soon head toward the desk of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. 

Legislation making its way through the state House and Senate this week will legalize both sports betting and online gambling in Michigan. Other bills included in the bipartisan package are related to bingo and charitable gaming, horse racing, and sentencing guidelines for violations of the state’s gambling laws.

The lynchpin bill, House Bill 4311, sponsored by state Rep. Brandt Iden (R-Portage), creates the Lawful Internet Gaming Act, which will be overseen by the Michigan Gaming Control Board. 

The signature of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer would make Michigan just the seventh state to legalize online gambling. 

Whitmer has previously taken issue with the legislation due to prior versions’ negative impacts on the state’s School Aid Fund, but now believes that input from state Sen. Curtis Hertel (D-East Lansing) and Rep. Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) has improved the package.

Like Snyder, Whitmer opposes online gambling legislation

“The governor’s top priority when getting this done was to protect the School Aid Fund, and Senator Hertel and Representative Warren helped make that happen and addressed a number of other concerns she had,” Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown wrote in an email. “This is a good, bipartisan solution made possible by working together on a complex issue, and the governor looks forward to closely reviewing this package once it hits her desk.”

Another bill tied to the package sponsored by Iden would make multiple amendments to the state’s Michigan Gaming Control and Revenue Act, including the repeal of a provision that currently bars casino owners from making direct political contributions. 

Sen. Curtis Hertel, Sept. 19, 2019 | Nick Manes

Hertel and other Senate Democrats touted that taken together, the legislation could lead to between $10 million and $50 million for state coffers.

“I’m of the belief that providing a legal, safe and regulated option that actually brings in money for the state is a good thing,” Hertel told reporters on Wednesday. “And I trust people to make decisions with their own lives.” 

But at least one lawmaker was fundamentally opposed to the legislation on moral grounds. 

State Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) complained of how our society “has disconnected itself from moral moorings” and opposed all the bills.

“The addiction to money is not just symptomatic, to the gambling addict, but it’s symptomatic to the state itself,” McBroom said in a Senate floor speech. “The State of Michigan is addicted to people’s money.”

Nick Manes
Nick Manes covers West Michigan, business and labor, health care and the safety net. He previously spent six years as a reporter at MiBiz covering commercial real estate, economic development and all manner of public policy at the local and state levels. His byline also has appeared in Route Fifty and The Daily Beast. When not reporting around the state or furiously tweeting, he enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, Krista, biking around his hometown of Grand Rapids and torturing himself rooting for the Detroit Lions.