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Michigan Governor Signs Online Poker Bill Into Law

Nearly A Year After Former Gov. Vetoed Similar Bill, Michigan Becomes Sixth State With Legal Online Poker

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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed HB 4311 into law on Friday morning, which legalized sports betting and online casino games, including poker, in Michigan.

With Whitmer’s signature, Michigan became the fifth state to legalize online casino games, sixth with legal online poker and 20th to legalize sports betting. The Wolverine State joins Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia as states with legal online poker.

Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware have been sharing player pools for about 18 months, while Pennsylvania just launched in November and has its own player pool within its border. West Virginia has yet to launch its online poker infrastructure.

Whitmer’s signature came almost exactly a year after former Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed a similar bill that would’ve legalized online gambling and sports betting at the end of 2018. Snyder vetoed the bill based on concerns that online gambling would put a dent in the revenue from the state lottery.

In the last fiscal year, the lottery sent $1 billion to the education system and seven percent of sales were made online.

Whitmer, a Democrat, held similar concerns as her Republican predecessor and was not going to sign the original bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Brandt Iden because she felt the eight percent tax rate was too low to offset any decline in lottery sales.

Democratic Sen. Curtis Hertel helped bridge the gap between party lines and helped negotiate a tiered tax structure with operators paying anywhere between 20-28 percent of their gross gaming revenue. Sports betting revenue will be taxed separately at 8.4 percent. Whitmer originally had called for a 40 percent tax rate.

According to local media, revenue from online gaming and sports betting will support the School Aid Fund and First Responder Presumed Coverage Fund.

“My top priority in signing this legislation was protecting and investing in the School Aid Fund, because our students deserve leaders who put their education first,” Whitmer told Fox 2 Detroit. “Thanks in part to the hard work and leadership of Senator Hertel and Representative Warren, these bills will put more dollars in Michigan classrooms and increase funding for firefighters battling cancer. This is a real bipartisan win for our state.”

To obtain a license for online gaming, operators will pay a $50,000 application fee, a $100,000 initial licensing fee and will be on the hook for a $50,000 annual renewal fee. Any of the three commercial casinos in Detroit or the 23 tribal casinos in the state will be eligible to apply for a license.

Operators will be eligible to have two separate brands for their online poker room and the rest of their online casino. This will allow bigger sites like PokerStars, who do not have a partnership with an existing casino, to enter the market once a partnership is formed.