Tribal Casinos in Michigan would like to legalize sports betting.

  • MI HB 4916 will be going before the Senate Committee on Regulatory Reform in Michigan this week in hopes of legalizing sports betting.
  • The Tribal casinos of the state are backing the legalization of sports betting.
  • Tribal support could be the boost the bill needs in order to be signed into law.

DETROIT – The Indian Tribes of Michigan are in favor of legalizing sports betting in the state.

MI HB 4916 passed on October 30 through the House and will now be presented on Tuesday before the Senate Committee on Regulatory Reform. Having the Tribes support could play a very big factor in the final result. However, not everyone is on board with the idea.

Currently, the compacts that Michigan has with the Tribal casinos in the state have resulted in a gain of $53.4 million in 2018 from gaming that went to the Michigan Economic Corp. and the Michigan Strategic Fund. The legalization of sports betting is estimated to see between $16-$20 million in annual revenue which is less than half of what they’re receiving from casino games alone.

What’s The Problem?

It is a fear of the House Fiscal Agency that should sports betting become legal, the Tribal casinos would find a loophole within their compacts and no longer pay their annual gaming taxes to the state.

“Instead of offering sports betting,” Tribal casinos could “elect to simply stop making revenue-sharing payments,” stated a September analysis by the agency.

Representative Brandt Iden, the man behind the iGaming bills going before the Senate has said that he has worked with the Tribes in a direct manner for four years and that no such talk has come up.

It is the casinos not having the proper technology for sports betting that has the House Fiscal Agency fearful. But Brandt has said that casinos can hire the proper people to make sports betting a reality for their casinos as it would help them gain more clientele in doing so. Presently, there are 24 Tribal casinos statewide.

Of the twelve Tribes with casinos, the $53.4 million that was paid to the state in 2018, came from seven of them.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who will have the ultimate say over the legalization of sports betting is not afraid of the Tribal issue. She believes that the tax rate of 8.75% is still too low for the state to profit from the endeavor. And if sports wagering in Michigan becomes legal, that could take money away from those betting on the Michigan Lottery which is the primary source of revenue for the School Aid Fund.

There are still many different aspects to consider before any bill is signed into law. Having Tribal casinos on the legal side of the issue is a good sign. Some of their compacts are very specific and name each and every game they are allowed to offer at their casinos.

This means they would need the permission of the state in order to offer sports betting at their facilities.

If they are behind legalizing the wagering of sporting events and would need state permission to allow it at their businesses, it seems doubtful that their gaming payments to Michigan would cease by a loophole. Residents of the state should have more answers on the progression of legalizing sports betting statewide after Tuesday’s meeting.

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