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Michigan's online gambling delayed until 2021

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Michigan's regulators are estimating rules to govern online casino games, sports betting and fantasy sports will take about a year to develop.

The targeted 2021 completion of the online rules are based on the time it took to develop other rule sets in the past, said Mary Kay Bean, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Gaming Control Board. 

Tom Baldwin of Paint Creek, W.V., tries to download the new online sports betting application onto his smart phone soon after the official ribbon cutting opening of the sportsbook betting app at Mardi Gras Casino & Resort in Crosslanes, W.V. Friday Dec. 28, 2018.

“For in-person sports betting at the Detroit casinos, the goal for launch is this spring,” Bean said, noting the date will depend on applications, internal control reviews and the licensing process.

The timeline largely is the standard in other states that have legalized online gaming and sports betting, said Rep. Brandt Iden, R-Oshtemo Township, who spearheaded the online gaming package. A similar package took six to eight months to implement in Indiana, he said. 

“I’d like it to be a little bit quicker, but that’s probably the timeline,” Iden said. 

The in-person sports betting timeline is a good step forward, he said, but it's not likely the state will experience significant tax revenue until online gambling piece is up and running.

“Until we’re fully integrated online, I don’t think we’ll be able to capitalize on revenue. But from a consumer protection standpoint, from getting players interested, certainly getting up and going in person is helpful,” Iden said. 

The Gaming Control Board could issue emergency rules while developing permanent regulations, but those are reserved for “rare occasions” where there is a “threat to healthy, safety and welfare,” Bean said. The decision would need the concurrence of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. 

“The MGCB is following the regular rules process, which provides opportunities for stakeholder and public input — holding a public hearing and offering a public comment period — and to file a regulatory impact statement," Bean said. "All of these elements are missed when emergency rules are approved." 

Whitmer signed the online gaming, sports betting and fantasy sports package on Dec. 20 after months of negotiation over the tax rate amid fears that online gambling would pull from brick-and-mortar casinos and the Lottery, whose tax revenue is a big contributor to the state’s School Aid Fund.

The Detroit casinos contributed $117.8 million in gaming taxes to the state of Michigan for 2019. hey also put forth $184.2 million in wagering taxes and development agreement payments to the city of Detroit.

The new Moneyline Sports Lounge at MGM Grand Detroit.

The casinos have been preparing to offer sports-betting and online gaming even prior to legalization. MGM last fall opened its Moneyline sports lounge that could support a sportsbook. And Penn National last summer said it has 20-year agreements with online gaming operator The Stars Group and mobile sports book theScore Inc. to offer the activities at Greektown in addition to its own sports book.

Staff writer Breanna Noble contributed

eleblanc@detroitnews.com.