Opinion: Sports betting ought to be allowed in Michigan

William Broman
A gambler places a bet at the sportsbook at Bally's casino in Atlantic City.

We are nearly halfway through the college and NFL football seasons and fast approaching the NCAA basketball season, and Michigan continues to lose. No, not the University of Michigan or Michigan State University — I’m talking about the state of Michigan. Every day we lose out on potential tax dollars because we haven’t legalized sports gambling.

In September, New Jersey netted over $5 million in tax dollars from sports gambling, the most of any state, with over 80% coming from sportsbook apps and websites. From June 2018 to September 2019, New Jersey collected over $37 million in taxes from sports gambling.

Michigan is losing out, and for what?

Concerned about the impact sports betting would have on the state lottery and brick-and-mortar casinos, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wants to tax sports gambling at a rate that would make it unprofitable for sportsbook operators.

New Jersey taxes its sportsbooks at 8.5% for brick-and-mortar betting, like casinos, and 13% for online or mobile wagers. New Jersey’s sports gambling revenue is second only to Nevada, but it still collected more in taxes. Michigan shouldn’t try to go above and beyond New Jersey’s tax structure. It seems to suit them well and would be acceptable to most sportsbook operators.

The concerns over the potential impact to the state lottery and brick-and-mortar casinos is an equally ridiculous reason to keep Michigan from competing with other states. Whitmer will see this when she understands the sports bettor.

The lottery player and the average sports bettor are not the same person. Neither are the blackjack player and the average sports bettor. either the lottery nor the casinos will lose their players if Michigan legalizes sports gambling.

The typical sports bettor watches the game from home or at a bar with friends. He’s not at the casino and he’s not out buying a lotto ticket.

Someone betting at casinos and playing the lottery who is also interested in sports betting is already doing both or all three. The difference between today and the day sports betting is legalized is whether the state gets a cut of the wager.

In addition, sports betting will be a boon to bars and restaurants as the sports bettor will stay until the end of the game they’ve bet, regardless of whether the game is Michigan v. Michigan State or Murray State v. Western Kentucky. If a game is locked up and the winner is decided, the average viewer may cash out and leave the bar, but the sports bettor will stay to see if their team covers the spread, or if they hit the over/under bet. The bartender will be pouring another round of beer, guaranteed.

Michigan’s success after legalizing land-based and online sports gambling is the mortal lock of the century. Whitmer and the Michigan Legislature should bet on it. 

William Broman is a Republican from Grosse Pointe, an engineer, and a law student at Wayne State.