For a long time there were just three states in America that had a legalized online poker industry. Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey were the only states that managed to push through an online poker bill.
In the last couple of years, Pennsylvania and West Virginia also passed legalization to legalize online poker becoming the fourth and fifth states to do so respectively. The Wolverine state is the latest state to join the online poker bandwagon.
There were as many as 10 states including California that were debating the possibility of online poker legalization but numerous challenges and opposition from anti-gambling groups including Sheldon Adelson’s Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling made it difficult for online poker proponents to experience any success.
Sports Betting Legalization Helps
The push to legalize online poker across America lost momentum during the last few years. However, when the Supreme Court ruled in May 2018 in favour of New Jersey and repealed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), it opened the door for individual states to pass their own legislation and legalize sports betting.
Sports betting is a much bigger and more lucrative market than online poker, so it was no surprise to see a large number of states move quickly towards legalizing sports betting. This push to legalize sports betting has had a positive impact on online poker legalization as multiple states have decided to include online poker in the process of legalizing sports betting.
Michigan Legalizes Online Poker
Michigan tried to legalize online poker back in 2018 but the bill was vetoed by the state’s former governor Rick Snyder. State legislators did not give up and put together HB 4311 and pushed it through in 2019. The bill to legalize online poker was approved by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on December 20, making Michigan the sixth state in the country to legalize online poker.
The former governor Rick Snyder took the decision to veto the previous online poker bill because he felt that it would eat into the revenues of the state lottery. The state lottery generated over $1 billion in revenue to the educational system and Snyder did not want to take the chance and upset a lucrative state lottery operation.
Current Gov. Whitmer also had similar concerns because she felt the 8 percent tax rate proposed by Republican Rep. Brandt Iden’s bill was a little too low to compensate for any losses the state lottery might incur. The governor wanted to impose a 40 percent tax rate which would have been a little too much for gaming operators to pay and make a reasonable profit.
However, those concerns were worked out as Democratic Sen. Curtis Hertel came up with a proposal to increase the tax rate and find a bridge between the 8 percent proposed in the bill and the 40 percent suggestion by the governor.
Casino Games And Sports Betting Legalized
Michigan has not only legalized online poker but also casino games and sports betting. In doing so, Michigan is now the twentieth state to legalize sports betting, the sixth to legalize online poker and the fifth to legalize online casino games.
This was made possible because all stakeholders involved agreed to the tax rate proposed by Hertel. Sports betting operators will have to pay a tax rate of 8.4 percent while other operators will have to pay tax rate between 20 to 28 percent.
The three Detroit commercial casinos and the 23 tribal casino operators are allowed to apply for a gaming license. The license application fee will cost $50,000 and another $50,000 will need to be paid as an annual renewal fee. There is also a $100,000 initial licensing fee that must be paid.
Each licensed operator will be able to host two different brands. One will be for online casino games and the other one for online poker. State legislators will now have to work out gaming regulations to govern sports betting, online poker and online casino games in 2020.

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