When Will Michigan Get Sports Betting?

The state of Michigan has been waiting patiently for years for sports betting to become legal in the state. It’s an issue that’s plagued the state’s politics for decades but was only recently given the attention it deserves. On August 8th, 2018 the state’s Supreme Court issued a joint ruling with the state’s Legislature in favor of a sports betting initiative that would allow for-profit and nonprofit sportsbooks to operate in the state.

With the court’s ruling came the exciting news that the state would indeed allow for betting on sporting events. The decision marks the culmination of a long campaign by the Michigan Citizen Inc., an advocacy group that’s been fighting for legal sports betting in the state for years. The organization’s founder and executive director Rich Affleck hailed the court’s decision as a “historic” moment that would bring much-needed competition to the state’s already crowded sports betting market.

Why Now?

Although the court’s ruling is a big step forward for the state of Michigan, it’s far from the first of its kind. Since the early 2000s, a number of states have opened their doors to legal sports betting, largely thanks to the efforts of pro-regulation groups like the Americans With Disabilities Association (ADA). In 2018 alone, there were 17 different rulings from state Supreme Courts that allowed for sports betting, including Michigan.

But while other states have taken the plunge and have begun to offer wagering on sporting events, Michigan has sat on the sidelines and watched as the nation’s biggest sporting events have generated billions of dollars in betting markets across the country. This trend of states denying sports betting and then watching their economies struggle because of it continues to this day, with several states like Connecticut, Missouri, and North Carolina still banning the activity. It’s an unfortunate state of affairs that’s prevented Michigan from offering its residents the benefits that come with legal sports betting, namely greater convenience and a more competitive market. For years the state’s lawmakers have promised to lift the ban on sports betting, but have been unable to pass legislation due to local opposition and concerns about illegal gambling. In fact, it wasn’t until 2018 that Michigan became the eighteenth state to allow for-profit and nonprofit sportsbooks to operate. The state’s Supreme Court ruled 5-2 in favor of the Michigan Citizen’s petition, which asked the court to “issue a declaratory judgment that statutes prohibiting sports betting are unconstitutional and unenforceable.”

But the court’s ruling doesn’t just legalize sports betting in Michigan. It also sets the stage for the development of a regulated sports betting industry in the state, paving the way for increased revenue, new jobs, and more options for Michigan residents. The court’s decision has prompted a nationwide debate about whether or not to expand sports betting to the point of ending the state-sponsored monopoly on gambling in sports. Several professional sports leagues have already weighed in, with the NFL, MLB, and NBA all expressing support for a federal repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 2002 (PASPA). The federal law prevents most states from implementing their own legal sports betting markets, but it doesn’t prohibit them from doing so, which gives the states enough wiggle room to get the job done.

The Impact Of The Ruling

The court’s ruling will have a significant impact in the state of Michigan when it comes to how legal sports betting is regulated and how the industry operates. First off, the state’s constitution now classifies sports betting as a “legitimate” form of wagering, which means that the state is obligated to regulate the industry in some way. This could mean setting up a commission or council to oversee and regulate sports betting in the state (something that Florida did in 2018), or it could simply mean licensing and taxing the activity like other forms of wagering. It’s also possible that the state Legislature could pass legislation that further defines the regulations around sports betting in the state. In any case, this is a step forward for the state and its residents, who have been waiting years for something like this to happen.

Looking Ahead

It’s still too soon to tell exactly what kind of impact the court’s decision will have on the Michigan sports betting industry, but it’s clear that the decision has opened Pandora’s box and paved the way for increased competition, more jobs, and greater revenue for the state and its residents. The decision has also reignited a nationwide debate about whether or not to legalize sports betting, which means there’s still work to be done before Michigan can truly become a major sports betting hub. If you’re reading this, the answer is yes! But for now, we can take some small consolation in knowing that the wait is nearly over.