Crucial support of Indian tribes to sports betting legalization in Michigan
In Michigan, U.S., sports betting legislation has passed the state House and will be taken up by a Senate committee. Within that complex debate, strong support was expressed from Indian tribes of the State. Those tribes had paid US$53.4 million in gaming proceeds to the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and the Michigan Strategic Fund in 2018. That’s more than the US$16 million to US$20 million annually in taxes and fees that sports betting is expected to generate for the state and the city of Detroit. The state entered into gaming agreements with 12 Michigan tribes, which have resulted in 24 tribal casinos. Only seven of those tribes have agreements that require them to pay between 2 percent and 12 percent of their net winnings to the Michigan Strategic Fund.
The sports betting legislation is part of a package of Internet gaming bills before the Legislature. It may move more quickly than the other bills, however, since it is seen as tapping a potentially new market through a type of wagering that does not currently exist legally in Michigan, unlike games such as Internet slots or poker, which have live versions already offered in land-based casinos. Some people are concerned that sports betting could take revenues away from the Michigan Lottery, which would hurt the School Aid Fund. Also, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who could veto the bill, says the 8.75 percent tax rate proposed for sports betting is too low. However, Rep. Brandt Iden, R-Oshtemo Township, the sponsor of House Bill 4916, said the tribes support the legislation and want to participate in sports betting through their casinos. Iden explained the tribes can hire operators who have the technology to administer sports betting and it’s a chance for them to draw on a statewide betting market, rather than just those who live near or visit what are in many cases the small northern communities where they are located.
Bryan Newland, chairman of the executive council of the Bay Mills Indian Community, which operates the Bay Mills Casino in Brimley, affirmed he’s excited about the prospect. “We just feel like this is the next step in the evolution of gaming. I think it’s important that Michigan as a state, and the tribes included, not miss the boat on this,” he stated.