A Brief History Of Michigan’s Gambling Laws

Published on April 24, 2024, 4:15 am
FavoriteLoadingAdd to favorites 8 mins

Gambling laws across the USA can be seen as a tangled web of contradiction and confusion for any gambler unfamiliar with local regulations. The primary reason is that each state is permitted to pass independent laws regarding what is or is not allowed in terms of placing wagers.

This ability is due to a landmark revision to the law in 2018. At this time, the Supreme Court declared the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act invalid, opening the floodgates to sports betting and online bookmakers in many states.

While gambling was already present in many of these states, the influx of new online providers made states that had previously rejected legalizing casinos and the like to reconsider. Since then, many have allowed the establishment of legal gambling frameworks.

In Michigan, the adoption of legal online gambling was not a major task. The state has been home to more than 20 casinos for years. As such, gambling is nothing new to residents and has been enjoyed by many long before 2018.

To see how this became possible for residents of the Great Lakes State, we have looked back at the history of gambling laws in the region. Keep reading for an overview of how gambling in Michigan and the surrounding legal framework have progressed over the years.

Early Gambling

The first instances of gambling occurred in the early 1900s. At the time, gambling wasn’t legal, as it had been entirely prohibited by 1910. Much of the gambling that happened was, therefore,  underground. However, by 1933, the state made its first move to allow the legal placing of wagers.

With the passing of the 1933 Racing Act, pari-mutuel bets placed on horse racing were officially legal. Gambling grew quickly, and the local government realized that alongside this new pastime, they needed a way to ensure it was conducted fairly and honestly.

The Office of Racing Commissioner was established in the same year. Operating under the Department of Agriculture, the ORC is an independent agency that ensures all races and bets placed on them are conducted safely and responsibly.

Steps Forward

After horse race betting was legalized, there was an extensive timeframe before the state again moved to allow more legal forms of gambling. The next step occurred in 1972 after voters cast ballots in favor of the establishment of a state lottery.

This progress was achieved through the amendment of the state’s constitution and was ratified through the signing of Public Act 239 in the same year. The first draw was undertaken on November 13, 1972, and the lottery has grown exponentially since then.

In the same year, more steps were taken forward with the passing of Public Act 382. This act made provision for nonprofit organizations to raise funds through licensed gambling activities. Among the activities allowed, these nonprofits could offer bingo games, raffles, and game ticket sales.

Many believe that the legalization of a state lottery, followed closely by the ability of nonprofit organizations to raise funds through legal gambling, is the pivotal step in the evolution of gambling in the state. Despite this belief, it took many years before further progress was made and full-scale casinos were considered.

Casino Gambling

By 1993, horse racing and the state lottery had grown dramatically. This resulted in increased revenue for the state, which was funneled back to counties to improve service delivery and schooling.

With many tribal grounds located in the state, the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe approached the local government to receive permission to open a tribal casino. After due consideration, the state entered into mutually agreeable compacts, which saw the establishment of the first fully-fledged casino that included slots, poker, and other table games.

The compact’s conditions included the casino paying the state 2% of its profits annually. The compact and the casino would also be overseen and answerable to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, passed by the federal government in 1988 to oversee tribal gambling nationwide.

A year after launch, the casino paid the local government around $531,763. This casino’s success led to an additional ten compacts signed between the state and other tribal casinos before the end of 1998.

Due to this expansion in the pastime among state residents, the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) was established in late 1996. The governing body oversaw gambling in the state and ensured that all operations were above board.

A year later, the Gaming Control and Revenue Act was passed. This law created a legal framework for casinos and outlined the establishment and licensing of three non-tribal casinos in Detroit.

The first two casinos opened in 1999, followed by the third in 2000. The gambling scene did not change much until 2018.

21st Century Gambling

After the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in 2018, plans were quickly implemented to establish legal sports betting in the state. In 2019, bills S4916 and H4311 (also known as the Lawful Internet Gaming Act) were passed, legalizing the activity and creating provisions for establishing physical sportsbooks.

Just a year later, weeks before lockdown hit casinos, retail sportsbooks were officially opened for business at all three casinos in Detroit. At the time, online bookmakers and casinos were still prohibited.

With lockdowns prohibiting bettors from gambling at physical casinos, establishing online casinos was further considered. These had already been provided for under the Lawful Internet Gaming Act and needed to be approved by the MGCB.

In 2021, the green light was officially given for the full legalization of online casinos, poker, and sports betting. This opened the market, and that is why you can try online gambling in Michigan today. Many operators launched platforms to offer their gambling services.

Currently, the MGCB oversees more than 15 operators active in the state. Michigan players have pushed the state to the number one position in terms of online gambling. The state was responsible for online gambling revenue of over $1 billion in 2023 and displays the love of gambling among state residents.


Featured image credit: DepositPhotos.com

Jonas Bronck is the pseudonym under which we publish and manage the content and operations of The Bronx Daily.™ | Bronx.com - the largest daily news publication in the borough of "the" Bronx with over 1.5 million annual readers. Publishing under the alias Jonas Bronck is our humble way of paying tribute to the person, whose name lives on in the name of our beloved borough.