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Next Up? Is Michigan set to allow online gambling

Within the last month, Michigan lawmakers have introduced a bill to allow online gambling, but that is pretty much the end of the good news for potential Michigan gamblers.  As always, the devil is in the details, and also in the process, both of which plague the Michigan initiative.

The actual bill is very restrictive and would only allow online gambling if the patron is on the physical property of an already existing casino.  To further compound this issue, the bill requires a substantial yearly license fee which would prevent almost all of the casinos, especially the smaller Indian casinos from participating.

The process of this bill poses a few hurdles thanks to previous legislation passed more than a decade ago as well as the situation of local Indian tribes.  Michigan has a standing statute that any law or issue related to gambling must not only pass the normal legislative process but would also need to be voted on directly by the people of the state of Michigan.   This point is under debate as pro-gambling legislators argue that this is only an extension of an existing process and as such does not require the state-wide vote.  It is unclear how much opposition there is to this bill and if someone would be willing to fight through the courts to requires the state-wide vote.

The other issue will be the local Indian tribes who have vowed to fight against the bill for a number of reasons.  The first is the high licensing fee which seems to be obviously there to allow only the largest two or three casinos in the state to be able to profitably allow online gambling.  The tribes contend that the larger resort casinos can recoup the fees because of increased room bookings while the tribes who mainly operate smaller facilities would never be able to recoup the fees.

So while the headline might seem promising, in the end, this is just another gimmicky way for politicians to reward large casino donors while effectively blocking non-casinos from offering online gambling in the state.