HomePublicationsNewsletter ArchiveNewslettersVolume 21Issue 34House Regulatory Reform Standing Committee Holds Meeting on Michigan Sports Gambling Legislation

On Wednesday, October 14, 2015, the Michigan House Regulatory Reform Standing Committee heard testimony regarding two bills that seek to amend the Michigan Gaming Control & Revenue Act (“Gaming Act”) to allow sports wagering at Michigan’s casinos and horse racing tracks as well as authorize simulcast wagering at Michigan’s casinos. Although the legislation, if passed, would authorize the wagering activity under the Gaming Act.

House Bill 4669 would amend the Gaming Act to authorize commercial casinos to accept wagers on sporting events, as well as direct the Michigan Gaming Control Board (“MGCB”) to promulgate rules governing the activity. Notably, the bill indicates that, if passed, the legislation would be subject to both a statewide and local vote requirement before becoming effective.

House Bill 4670 also seeks to amend the Gaming Act to allow the Detroit casinos to offer simulcast wagering on horse races. The MGCB would also be directed to promulgate rules for such wagering activity. As with HB 4669, this legislation also indicates that both a statewide and local vote would need to grant approval before the legislation is effective.

Both bills were introduced by Representative Robert Kosowski (D-Westland) on June 2, 2015 and have been with the Committee on Regulatory Reform since their introduction. Rep. Kosowski noted that the authorization of sports and simulcast wagering was introduced as a way to raise funding for Michigan roads and Michigan’s horse racing industry.

In addition, Joe Asher, CEO of William Hill U.S., and Dan Shapiro, Director of Business Development at William Hill, also offered testimony in support of the legislation. Mr. Asher  estimated, based upon figures in Washoe County, Nevada (Reno), that Michigan could generate up to $5B in annual handle with $300M in additional gaming revenue for the state. It was not clear how the tax monies would be used, and the bills do not speak to this.

Notably, on October 14, New Jersey vacated an August 25 decision by the US District for the Third Circuit, which upheld a lower court ruling that found that a 2014 attempt to deregulate sports wagering in New Jersey violates federal law. This previous ruling follows multiple attempts by New Jersey officials to authorize sports wagering in order to provide additional gaming options in Atlantic City. Committee Chairman Rep. Ray Franz, (R-Onekama) noted that Michigan would let New Jersey ‘foot the legal bill’ regarding an analysis of sports wagering authorization under federal law. Please see the following story entitled “3rd Circuit Grants Rehearing in New Jersey Sports Wagering Litigation” for additional details on the case.

According to Rep. Kosowski, a legal analysis has not been performed by the Michigan legislature regarding potential issues in introducing these types of wagering options including violations of the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, or violation of the state’s tribal gaming compacts.

As noted by Committee Chairman Ray Franz, other organizations and businesses in support of the legislation include the Michigan Horseman’s Benevolent Protection Association, MGM, Michigan Equine Partnership, Great Lakes International, Michigan Harness Horsemen’s Association.

 

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