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Michigan lawmakers sizing up online gambling

Mar 7, 2017

On Wednesday, a state Senate committee takes up a package of bills to legalize online gambling in Michigan.

Online gambling is currently only legal in two states, Nevada and New Jersey. But several states are considering legalizing it. Supporters say legalizing online gambling could generate more tax revenue, though the difference seen in Nevada and New Jersey has been slight. 

Not everyone is willing to roll the dice on online gambling.    

“Essentially you’re putting a virtual slot machine in every child’s hand in the smartphone,” says Bill Jackson, who represents a coalition of religious groups and major casino owners fighting gambling expansion online. Casino magnates Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn are part of the coalition, largely out of concerns online gambling could hurt their bricks and mortar casino palaces. 

Lobbyist Bill Jackson delivers a long list of potential issues, from conflicts with existing gaming compacts with Native American tribes to maybe needing to amend Michigan’s state constitution.

“This legislation is rife with problems on a legal front and is not ready to become law,” says Jackson. 

There could be federal hurdles too.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he plans to revisit an Obama administration rule change that opened the door to online gambling. If Sessions scraps the 2011 Justice Department legal opinion, legal online gambling may go bust.