Michigan became the latest U.S. jurisdiction with legal sports betting on Friday morning, when Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a package of iGaming bills that state lawmakers sent her late last week. The package, which includes HB 4916, is the culmination of years of work by lead bill sponsor Brandt Iden, and will make state-wide mobile sports betting legal. Michigan is the first state with a significant tribal presence to legalize.
“After four years of hard work, I’m happy to see Michigan enter the modern era of gaming,” Iden told Sports Handle via text Friday morning. “We’ll have a safe, regulated environment for thousands of Michigan residents who for years have been forced to travel to other states or play on risky offshore sites.”
Iden, the Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, has likely been holding his breath since the Senate approved the bills on Dec. 11 and two days later sent the package to Whitmer. Last year at about this time, Iden had a similar package sitting on then Governor Rick Snyder’s desk. He unexpectedly vetoed the bills on Dec. 28, 2018, leaving Iden to lobby and negotiate for yet another year.
Sports betting tax rate will be 8.4%
This time around, it seemed clear Whitmer would sign after lawmakers hashed out a new tax structure on iGaming. Sports betting, both mobile and retail, will be taxed at 8.4%, plus a 3.25% Detroit city tax for the three downtown casinos. While the package of bills didn’t legalize retail sports betting, Iden said late last week that sports wagering at brick-and-mortar casinos has been legal in Michigan since the fall of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in May 2018, but that one of the bills, HB 4307, made the tax rate more reasonable.
In a statement, Whitmer characterized the new law as “a real bi-partisan win.” Whitmer’s goal with gaming legislation has been to protect and potentially create a new revenue stream for the School Aid Fund.
The American Gaming Association also praised the new law.
“With Gov. Whitmer’s signature, 20 states plus DC have now legalized sports betting in the United States, capping off a tremendous year of growth,” said Bill Miller, president and CEO of the American Gaming Association. “These new markets offer more Americans a safe, legal way to wager on sports while positively impacting communities, like in Michigan, where revenue from sports betting will generate needed resources for public education, first responders, and, importantly, responsible gaming.”
March Madness launch?
From here, Michigan will likely be in a sprint to go live. Having legal sports betting by March Madness has been bandied about, but is a tall order, especially in a state with 23 tribal casinos. It’s likely that the federal government, in the form of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and the Department of the Interior, will have to sign off on the new law before tribal casinos can offer sports betting.
Beyond that, the Michigan Gaming Control Board will have to license potential operators and promulgate rules. The state that moved the fastest from legal to live was neighboring Indiana, in which sports betting was legalized on May 8 of this year, and the first bet was taken on Aug. 15. It’s been more usual for states to take six months or more to get up and running. But Michigan already has a mature gaming infrastructure and an experienced regulatory body, so it’s possible the Wolverine State will move quickly.
Michigan now joins Colorado, Illinois, Montana, New Hampshire, Tennessee, and Washington, D.C. as jurisdictions that have legalized, but not launched.
“Our economy will benefit as jobs are created, and local communities will benefit from new revenue,” Iden said. “This is a huge win for our state and its residents.”