According to State Rep. Brandt Iden (R-Oshtemo Township), sports betting in the state is generally supported by Michigan’s tribal operators. While Iden is advocating for legalization of the market, Governor Gretchen Whitmer is playing hide and seek. Iden is determined to prepare the ground for his bill and is aspiring to unite the state’s 23 tribal casinos behind it. What would effectively kill Iden’s effort is withholding revenue share payments to the state on the grounds and their gaming exclusivity, as set out in their compacts.
In 2018, the tribes paid $53.4 million to the state, which conceals the $16 million to $20 million in tax revenues expected from sports betting. Iden reported that the tribes were on board provided they were on a level playing field with the state’s commercial casinos from the get-go. This highlights the need for tribal operators to be able to partner with international sports betting providers.
Nevertheless, tribal contributions are just one concern for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration. Michigan’s lottery has been a success story, generating more than $250 million in proceeds since its launch for the state’s School Aid Fund. According to Casino.org, Whitmer vetoed an online gaming bill passed by lawmakers last year, citing the need to protect lottery revenues. It also requested that online slots be removed from any future online gaming market because they’re too close to some of the lottery’s digital offerings.
Brandt Iden noted that the requirements would be unsustainable for prospective operators and other stakeholders. The bill that was eventually passed in the state House in October raised the tax rates to 8.75 percent for tribal casinos and 12 percent for commercial casinos. Whitmer has reportedly returned to the negotiating table, but her reservations linger now that the bills are with the state Senate.