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Legal Developments

Online And Mobile Horse Betting Is Coming To Michigan

Amid much fanfare, Michigan legalized online gambling and sports betting in December. Lost within the multi-bill package were changes to Michigan’s advanced deposit wagering laws that expressly legalize online horse betting.

The amendments to the Horse Racing Law of 1995 allow a race meeting licensee to contract with third-party firms to facilitate wagering on live and simulcast pari-mutuel racing.

On Tuesday, the Michigan Gaming Control Board announced it had approved a licensing process for third-party horse racing facilitators to offer advance deposit wagering (ADW wagering) online. Through the new mobile horse betting apps, Michiganders can place bets on live and simulcast horse races.  

“The order should enable the state’s horse racing industry to gain new followers through ADW and maintain protection for citizens who wish to place wagers on live and simulcast pari-mutuel racing in Michigan using their mobile phones,” Michigan Gaming Control Board Executive Director Richard S. Kalm said.

However, “before ADW can go live in Michigan, the race meeting licensee and the certified horsemen’s organizations also must agree to a contract with a provider,” Kalm added.

What the Michigan Gaming Control Board Order Says

The order requires third-party facilitators to:

  • Apply for a license
  • Provide a proposed plan of operation
  • Submit any proposed system operation plan changes to the MGCB executive director for preapproval
  • Pay a $1,000 application fee and a $500 license renewal fee to the MGCB to cover costs of background investigations
  • Use and communicate pari-mutuel wagers to a pari-mutuel system that meets all Michigan requirements

A Dearth of Gambling Options in Michigan

Online horse racing betting couldn’t come at a better time for the state.

COVID-19 has forced the states commercial and casinos to close, and the online sports betting, online poker, and online casino components of the 2019 laws are still in development, and unlikely to be fast-tracked.

One bright spot is Michigan’s successful online lottery. The sale of draw and instant win tickets has helped the state keep valuable revenue flowing during the lockdown.

Commercial Casinos Still Have a Long Way to Go

Detroit’s three commercial casinos are six months to a year away from operating as they did before the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Mike Duggan said Wednesday according to local news network Fox2.

That doesn’t mean the casinos won’t reopen sooner, but they won’t be running anywhere near their pre-pandemic levels.

“It costs us $600,000 a day, I haven’t complained about it a single time because the health of our community is more important than the revenue coming in,” Duggan said.

Duggan went on to say that reopening will likely be done in phases, with consultation from state health officials and an eye on how other jurisdictions are handling casino reopenings.

Per Fox2:

Duggan said those discussions involve if there’s a point where the casinos reopen with safety protocol, like guests and employees wearing masks, having only a third or a fourth of machines operating, restricting how many people can sit at a table. 

“Those conversations will occur in the coming weeks. I think we are a long way away — 6 months, maybe a year — from the casinos operating the way we’re used to seeing them operate, but I do think it is possible,” Duggan said.

He added that as things begin reopening in the coming weeks and/or months, you might see restaurants only using a third or a fourth of the tables, or movie theaters only using a small portion of seats. 

Tribal Casinos Are Closer to Reopening

Tribal casinos can set their own timeline, and at least one Upper Peninsula tribal operator, Island Resort and Casino in Harris, MI, had plans to reopen on May 6 but has since pushed that back to the 16th.

“Due to unforeseen circumstances, the Island Resort & Casino reopening has been postponed until Saturday, May 16th. We apologize for any inconvenience, we hope to see you then!”, the casino wrote on its Facebook page.

Online Gambling a Casualty of Politics

The possibility of Michigan fast-tracking the launch of online sports betting, online poker and online casino games took a hit this week when the legislature challenged Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s use of emergency powers.

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