The proposal to legalize online poker in Michigan took a major step forward after a Senate committee approved a legislation related to it last week.
The Regulatory Reform Committee voted in favour of the bill 8-1, which will in all likelihood push the bill towards being put to vote on the Senate floor.
The sponsor of the online poker bill is State Senator Mike Kowall who is also the Senate Majority Floor Leader.
However no companion bill has been introduced in the Michigan House so far.
With the current legislative session ending this month, further activities related to its passage would need to be wrapped up soon. According to the terms of the proposal only casinos that have operations in Michigan would be allowed to apply for an online license. This would apply to both commercial and tribal operators. The legislation stipulates an application fee of $100,000 and a fee of $5 million would be collected for the issuance of an Internet gaming license.
The bill would also set up the Division of Internet Gaming within the existing Michigan Gaming Control Board, which would be responsible for the oversight of the new gaming business.
Michigan currently has three commercial casinos located in Detroit and around two dozen tribal casinos. The Detroit casinos have witnessed declining revenues during the past few years. The total casino revenue from Detroit casinos in 2015 was $1.37 billion which was a marginal improvement of $40 million over the revenue generated in 2014, but lesser than the highs registered in the years between 2010 and 2012.
Earlier this month, an online poker legislation hearing was held and Amaya Inc, the parent company of PokerStars, the biggest online poker website in the world backed the new poker legislation. The state has been considering the possibility of legalizing online gaming for the three years and gave approval to the first online lottery in 2014.
If Michigan passes the new online poker bill this year, it would be the first state in U.S. to do so since 2013. California, Pennsylvania and New York are the other three states who are seriously considering approving online poker.
The legalization of online poker would be a landmark event for the gaming industry in Michigan. The key milestones for the state through the ages have been: the approval of Pari-mutuel horse racing in 1933, the approval of lottery in the 1970s followed by tribal gaming taking off in the 1980s and commercial gaming casinos in the 1990s.
The legalized online poker industry is expected to create 22,000 jobs in the state, in addition to generating significant tax revenue.