en. Kowall and other lawmakers are planning to make small changes to the legislation after a recent hearing to try to get approval from all the stakeholders.
"The number one issue is to make sure online gaming is safe while bringing in some revenue into the state at the same time," Kowall said.
There isn't a firm number yet to measure the impact to Michigan's bottom line by approving online casinos but some figures have suggested the state would rake in tens of millions of dollars.
While lawmakers seem to suggest online gaming is likely to be approved, the entities that would actually profit from the games aren't on-board.
Leaders at the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe (Soaring Eagle Casino, Mt. Pleasant) and the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Indians (FireKeepers Casino Hotel, Battle Creek) voiced concerns the legislation is failing to respect "tribal sovereignty".
Those tribes wrote in a joint letter to the Senate Regulatory Reform committee: "The legislation requires unconditional and unwarranted waivers of sovereign immunity as a condition; oversteps the State's authority to impose its jurisdiction on tribal reservation lands throughout the State of Michigan; and creates a licensing system that is inherently unfair to Indian tribes."
Leaders at the Gun Lake Casino in Allegan County didn't comment on the situation.
There are also some projected losers from the possible approval.
A Senate fiscal analysis found the city of Detroit could lose between $1.5 million and $4.5 million because the city wouldn't be able to collect online casino revenue.
The Michigan Lottery, which already has an online gaming platform, could also lose revenue. The Senate fiscal study found that "the School Aid Fund would experience a loss due to any shift in gaming revenue to internet gaming even if overall State revenue remained revenue neutral." The experts said it could experience "a loss of between $27.0 million and $46.7 million or roughly $18 to $32 per pupil."
But the numbers are all but guesses and moving targets right now depending on how popular online casinos become.
Earlier this month, Senators on the Regulatory Reform Committee voted the legislation out by a vote of 7-1. That sets the stage for a vote on the Senate floor which we are told will likely happen once the legislation undergoes some tweaks.
Several lawmakers contacted suggested the legislation has a clear road through both the Senate and House if everybody's on-board. Mostly because the lawmakers realize many people do go online to gamble these days, often times to offshore online casinos. Ultimately, the state doesn't get a cut of it, so they're looking to legalize it in a controlled way.
The Michigan Lottery does offer a type of online casino using Keno and scratch-off lottery tickets but a player can't legally play poker and blackjack and other casino-like games for money on the internet at home. Despite the restrictions, there is little to no enforcement on players who play in offshore casinos.
The key to the new legislation is it would allow only existing licensed Michigan casinos to open online casinos. Only players 21 years of age or older could play and they have be inside Michigan to connect to the system.