For more than half a decade, several parties pursued bringing legal and regulated online casino gaming to the state. The effort began with the idea that Michigan might become an online poker-only market, but New Jersey changed the calculus when it authorized a full array of online casino gaming in 2013.
Efforts in Michigan then evolved, shifting gears to consider online slots and table games along with poker. The push inside the Wolverine state was once spearheaded in the Senate by former lawmaker Sen. Mike Kowall. Upon his retirement, the efforts were handed off to State Rep. Brandt Iden in the House. The home base for the legislation had moved from one chamber to the other, but the plan was effectively the same.
After years of work, Iden was able to receive bipartisan support for both online casino and online sports wagering in late 2018, just a handful of months after the US Supreme Court overturned PASPA. Thanks to that high court ruling, the activity was now included in Michigan’s online gaming efforts.
But despite the successful passage of the gaming expansion package, former Gov. Rick Snyder, who was set to leave office, vetoed the bills on his way out the door. It came as a surprise to many, including Iden.
Snyder explained that he wanted to let the next governor, former state lawmaker Gretchen Whitmer, make the call. He said in a veto letter that the legislation had major implications for the state’s School Aid Fund, a reasoning that Whitmer agreed with.
The legislation faced hurdles in 2019 thanks to the fund, which is largely reliant on the lottery. Fortunately, it was all hashed out, with Whitmer agreeing to a lower tax rate for sports in exchange for a higher rate on online casino.
The Michigan Lottery began offering its games online in 2014, an offering that has continued to grow. While the emergence of online lottery gaming in Michigan paved the way for online casino, it was the lottery that ended up holding back iCasino near the end of the windy road that was the legislative process.
In order to reach a compromise with Whitmer, who was once opposed to online casino gaming altogether, the tax rate for online casino had to be raised significantly, relative to what passed the legislature in 2018. The devil was in the details.
On Dec. 13, Gov. Whitmer signed the gambling expansion bills, paving the way for state casinos to offer their gambling games online. Michigan online gambling sites officially launched in January 2021.
Industry launch date
Who can play
You must be 21 or older and be physically present in Michigan
Who regulates it
The Michigan Gaming Control Board
On any internet connected device, including desktops, smartphones and tablets
Casino tax rate
20% – 28% of adjusted gross income. Detroit casinos kick in an extra 1.25%
Sportsbook tax rate
8.4% on adjusted sports betting receipts. Detroit casinos pay an extra 1.25%
$50k application fee, $100k 5-year license fee, and $50k annual renewal fee
Where the taxes go
65% goes to the Internet Gambling Fund, which funnels much of the money into the Michigan School Aid Fund
Casino, sportsbook and poker operators may have one skin (brand) each