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Online gambling could become legal in Michigan

Online gambling could become legal in Michigan

PETOSKEY, Mich. (WPBN/WGTU) -- Tuesday night, a bill passed the Michigan House that would legalize online gambling and sports betting in the state.

Sponsors of the bill say this will help regulate online gaming, but critics say it feeds the problem of gambling addiction.

“We have to recognize that this is already going on in the state of Michigan," said Rep. Brandt Iden of Portage. "This is going on illegally. It’s illegal to do so, and it’s important that we regulate this to protect our citizens.”

Rep. Iden, who sponsored two of the three bills in the package, says online gaming could provide millions in revenue for the state.

“We’ve got a directive in the bill to ensure more money for k-12 education, our school aide fund," Iden said. "We’ve got money going to infrastructure and the roads, and then money for the city of Detroit.”

The bill would only allow brick and mortar casinos that already exist in Michigan to legally provide online gambling.

Casinos like Odawa in Petoskey have been watching this closely, and will likely jump on board.

“My bet would be yes," said Fred Harrington Jr., the legislative leader for the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians. "But, we have to analyze everything and see what kind of market there is for it.”

“Gambling addiction is as serious of a problem as cocaine addiction," said Paula Musilek, a gambling addiction councilor at Harbor Hall in Petoskey.

Musilek says more opportunity for gambling can cause more addiction.

“Certainly the state would have more, probably more control, more insight, and definitely benefit financially, but it also just broadens the ability and the opportunity to gamble, and that’s a concern,” Musilek said.

Rep. Iden says the online gambling would have software to make sure users are at least 21 years old, and that could even detect if someone is becoming a problem gambler, and stop them.

That package of bills has passed the house and will go to the state senate.

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