Michigan Online Gambling Is Still Afloat, Could Pass In 2019

Written By Martin Derbyshire on January 10, 2019 - Last Updated on January 11, 2019

All eyes are on Michigan online gambling.

Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder took the wind out of online gambling advocates’ sails just days before leaving office on Jan. 1. Synder vetoed online gaming legislation passed by both branches of the Michigan State Legislature — legislation it had miraculously passed in the final hours of its 2018 legislative session.

However, new Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was sworn in shortly after he departed. Despite the setback, supporters of this latest Michigan online gambling bill need to realize it’s far from dead yet. Not because Whitmer will be some sort of online gambling savior in the Great Lakes State, but because a closer look at the Michigan Lottery reveals the state has had legal online gambling since 2014.

Michigan already has online gambling

Online gambling advocates were desperately hoping Michigan would become the fifth state to legalize online gambling. Perhaps they should realize it probably already was.

In fact, this latest piece of legislation is really more of an expansion of the type of online gaming in the state. It simply removes something as un-American as the lottery‘s current monopoly on online sales. Therefore, a version of the bill is likely going to get the governor’s signature sooner or later.

After a successful pilot program began in August 2014, the Michigan Lottery launched online lottery sales in November of that year.

The Michigan iLottery was just Instant Keno and electronic scratch-off game equivalents at first. However, by August 2015, it had grown to include keno and 17 online instant-win games. Now, in the middle of its fifth year in operation, the Michigan iLottery offers more than 30 instant-win games.

The games often share names with traditional scratch-off and pull-tab tickets but in reality are very different.

There’s no scratching or pulling. Players merely push a button to play. And they can keep pushing that button until they run out of money. They’re certainly above and beyond any paper scratch-offs available at traditional lottery retailers.

In fact, when online instant win lottery games launched in Pennsylvania in 2018, several Pennsylvania casinos got together to sue the state lottery for offering what they believed to be the equivalent of online slots.

Protecting the Michigan iLottery monopoly

Thousands of players have already registered for accounts with the Michigan iLottery. Online instant-win game sales across the state are now well above 300,000 a day.

In fact, the Michigan iLottery has become very valuable. So much so that the sponsor of Michigan’s latest online gambling bills, Rep. Brandt Iden, told Online Poker Report’s Matthew Kredell that protecting the iLottery is the main reason Gov. Snyder vetoed the bills. But there are valid reasons why a majority of Michigan legislators are supportive of passing online gambling legislation, namely to aid the state’s struggling economy.

Rep. Iden also believes common sense and the American free market system will ultimately prevail. The January 2019 legislative session has begun, and he plans on reintroducing his online gambling bills.

He needs to convince the newly formed legislature and Whitmer that expanding to online gambling is a good idea. Moreover, the domination of a market by a single entity goes against the principles this country was founded upon. If all the chips fall into place, Michigan will officially become the fifth state with legal online gambling later this year.

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Martin Derbyshire

Martin Derbyshire has more than ten years of experience reporting on the poker, online gambling, and land-based casino industries for a variety of publications including Bluff Magazine, PokerNews, and PokerListings. He has traveled extensively, attending tournaments and interviewing major players in the gambling world.

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