Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has ratified bills to legalize sports betting and online gaming in the state, paving the way for a 2020 roll-out.
Whitmer signed House Bill 4311, which creates the Lawful Internet Gaming Act, allowing the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) to issue licenses for online and mobile casino games.
A similar proposal, put forward by Representative Brandt Iden, had been vetoed by Whitmer’s predecessor Rick Snyder in December 2018. For much of the year it looked as if the current Governor would refuse to ratify the bills if they passed the legislature.
However, her concerns about igaming cannibalizing lottery revenue, and in turn having an adverse impact on education funding, were assuaged by significant changes to the tax rate set out in HB4311. This saw the minimum rate raised to 20% of gross gaming revenue of $4m or less, and to 28% for venues generating annual revenue of $12m or above.
HB916, creating the Lawful Sports Betting Act, was also signed by the Governor. This allows tribal and commercial casinos to offer over-the-counter and online sports betting, taxed at 8.4% of gross revenue. Also signed into law was HB4308, the Fantasy Sports Consumer Protection Act, to create a legal framework for fantasy sports contests in Michigan.
Upon signing each bill, Whitmer noted that revenue raised would support the Michigan School Aid Fund and First Responder Presumed Coverage Fund (FRPCF). The FRPCF provides workers’ compensation and medical benefits to first responders, such as fire fighters, that have developed certain cancers.
The state Department of Treasury has projected a $19m injection of new revenue from the legalisation of online betting and gaming, including a $4.8m contribution to the School Aid Fund and $4m to FRPCF.
“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,” Whitmer explained.
“Thanks in part to the hard work and leadership of Senator Hertel and Representative Warren, these bills will put more dollars in Michigan classrooms and increase funding for firefighters battling cancer.
“This is a real bipartisan win for our state.”
The legislation will allow tribal and commercial operators to participate on an equal footing, ensuring a flow of revenue to support Native American community activities.
The passage of the legislation was hailed by the American Gaming Association (AGA), which noted that 20 states plus Washington DC had now legalized sports betting.