On December 20, 2019, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a series of bills that make Michigan the 20th state to legalize sports betting. Michiganders and those visiting the Great Lakes State will have to wait before placing losing wagers for the Lions to win the Super Bowl in 2021, so don’t cancel your Vegas trip yet.
The topic of sports betting has gained significant traction in recent years. Many prominent members of the sports industry have called for sports betting to be legalized and regulated. Among one of the chief proponents has been NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who authored an Op-Ed in the New York Times back in 2014 advocating for the legalization of sports betting. The path to legalized sports betting happened back in May 2018 when the United States Supreme Court struck down key provisions of the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. Since then, a flurry of states, now including Michigan, have legalized sports betting.
Many of the arguments offered in favor of legalizing sports betting are familiar to those who have advocated in favor of legalizing marijuana. Like marijuana, sports betting has largely been illegal throughout much of the United States. However, the threat of criminal prosecution has done little to deter bettors. By some estimates nearly $150B is wagered illegally on sports each year in the United States. With this much cash involved, it is unremarkable that a significant criminal enterprise has evolved and flourished off bettors looking to add some extra excitement to their sports entertainment.
By taking sports betting out of the criminal enterprise, tax revenue and important oversight can be generated. Michigan’s approach includes taxes on wagers that expects to generate $19M in additional state tax revenue, a sizable chunk of which will go to school funding. Importantly, taking gambling out of the criminal enterprise allows major sports leagues and regulators to identify irregularities in betting. Identifying these types of irregularities can help prevent cheating or “fixing” games.
Michigan’s new sports betting laws will permit the 3 licensed casinos in Detroit and Native American tribal-owned casinos to offer sports betting on site. Moving forward, Michiganders will also be able to place wagers online with licensed Michigan casinos. Michigan has also legalized and created a licensing system for daily fantasy sports operators like DraftKings and FanDuel. As of now, the hope is that Michigan will have the administrative rules and licensing structure in place so that bettors can begin placing wagers in time for NCAA March Madness.
Like most everything in this world, gambling should be enjoyed in moderation. Never wager more than you can afford to lose. If you need help, there are resources available, such as the Michigan Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-270-7117.
An associate attorney with Grewal Law PLLC in Okemos, Michigan, John Fraser focuses on general litigation, criminal defense, cannabis law, and appellate law. John is also an adjunct professor of law at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School where he teaches a course on Medical Marijuana and the Law.