Will Michigan Legalize Sports Betting And What Would It Mean for the Economy?

“We’re being prudent, but we’re looking to do something fast and be ahead of the curve,” says state Rep. Robert Kosowski.

Jake Neher/WDET

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court opened the door for legal sports betting across the country.

In a 6-3 vote, the justices struck down a 1992 federal law that banned sports gambling in most states.

The decision doesn’t legalize sports gambling outright all over the United States, but it gives states the authority to allow that activity.

So now the question is, what will Michigan do? And what will happen around the country that could create competition between gaming sites?

Two guests join Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson to discuss those issues.

State Rep. Robert Kosowski (D-Westland) introduced his first bill to legalize sports betting in Michigan in 2015 and brought it back in this session. Read it here.

“Every state is going to have this opportunity,” Kosowski said. “We’re being prudent, but we’re looking to do something fast and be ahead of the curve.”

Michigan House Democrats

In talking with Henderson, Kosowski called Detroit a “big sports town” with much interest in professional and college teams.

“My idea is let’s fix these road, let’s get insurance back in shape. Let’s help our educational system. Let’s fund our schools,” Kosowski said. “We really don’t know how much this could bring in.”

One estimate, Kosowski said, is that sports betting could bring at minimum $300 million in revenue.

Henderson asked about the “flipside” of the argument. “With gambling comes a lot of other concerns and vices,” he said. “How do you answer those concerns?”

Kosowski characterized them as “big concerns” but said the casinos currently have hotlines and monitor customers. “Their job is to recognize a problem gambler and to help them. Is it 100 percent foolproof? No,” he said.

If Detroit’s three casinos added sports betting, Kosowski said the business would be good for the city.

Currently Detroit collects nearly a fifth of its annual revenues from casino taxes.

“I’m not saying it’s going to be like Vegas but I’m pretty sure people are coming to coordinate their schedule around the Detroit Lions, go down there and maybe bet on them,” he said.

Henderson also speaks with Brendan Bussmann, director of government affairs for Global Market Advisors. He was in the courtroom when the gambling case was argued last year.

“People need to understand that the Supreme Court ruling was as much about states’ rights as it was about the gaming issue,” Bussmann said. His firm, with offices in the United States and Asia, is consulting with casinos, Native American tribes and state officials across the country.

Existing brick-and-mortar casinos, like the three in Detroit, Bussmann said, have a “jump on the ability to conduct sports betting.” But the state legislature has to legalize it first. “That’s a very rigorous process, and you want to make sure it gets done right,” he said.

Bussmann said taxes on gambling should be “reasonable” and not hinder operations.

“There’s a lot that’s wagered on sports,” he said, but operators typically only clear about five percent after taxes and operating costs.

States, Bussmann said, should do due diligence in creating and adopting legislation and should consider creating apps for Smartphones to secure a share of the industry.

“To compete with that market, you need that online tool to do that…whether it’s the bookie down the street or the offshore site in the Caribbean, you need to be able to compete with them,” Bussman said.

He predicts some states will debate — if not adopt — legislation in the next month and said New Jersey, Delaware and Mississippi are moving fast.

Click on the audio player above to hear the full conversation.


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