The Michigan legislature has been busy recently addressing a variety of gaming-related bills. On December 4, 2019, the House passed HB 4307, a modernization of the Gaming Control Act. Previously, the House had passed the other bills in the gaming package, including sports betting (HB 4916), fantasy sports (HB 4308), advanced deposit wagering for horse tracks (HB 4310), charitable gaming millionaire parties (HB 4730), and iGaming (HB 4311). Additional details regarding the provisions contained in the gaming package may be found in Volume 25, Issue 12 of the Michigan Gaming Newsletterand Volume 25, Issue 29 of the Michigan Gaming Newsletter.

As amending the Gaming Control Act requires a 3/4ths majority vote, it took a bit longer to pass HB 4307. The bill passed by a 89-19 margin. HB 4307 contains many changes to the Gaming Control Act, including eliminating the ban on political contributions from casino licensees and employees, revising occupational licensing barriers, and permitting certain individuals to receive a license if sufficient time has passed from any previously disqualifying criminal conviction. It also reduces the waiting periods for gaming control board members and employees from having an interest in a casino licensee either before or after their board employment. Finally, the bill also increases the ownership threshold from 1% owners to 5% owners who must come forward for licensure. HB 4307 now moves to the Senate where it has been assigned to the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee. The Senate Regulatory Reform Committee has scheduled a hearing on Tuesday, December 10 in which it will take up the full package of gaming bills.

On the Senate side, bills governing sports wagering were introduced on December 3, 2019. SB 663 and 664, sponsored by Sen. Curtis Hertel (D-District 23), permits and regulates sports wagering and are substantively identical to HB 4916. SB 663 and 664 were referred to the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee.

Senators Jim Ananich (D-District 27), Dan Lauwers (R-District 25), and Kevin Daley (R-District 31) jointly sponsored a bill (SB 661) that would permit wagering on historical horse racing (“HHR”). Unlike sports wagering, HHR was not part of the package of gaming bills previously passed by the House. A handful of states have authorized HHR, which utilizes randomly selected horse races to permit pari-mutuel-style wagers on machines that provide users with a slot machine type interface. Currently, HHR is permitted in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Oregon, Virginia and Wyoming. Other states, such as Colorado, Idaho, Nebraska, have seen ballot proposals seeking to authorize the machines defeated by voters. SB 661 was also referred to the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee and will be taken up in the December 10 meeting.

Both the House and the Senate will need to move quickly to get any gaming legislation passed in 2019, as there are only six more scheduled sessions before the end of the year, with the last three sessions only tentatively scheduled for December 17-19.  As Michigan’s legislative term is two years, however, the bills will carry over into 2020 if they are not passed before year-end.

 

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