Horse Racing

The first legal opportunities for gambling in Michigan came about with the passing of the Racing Act of 1933 to authorize and regulate pari-mutuel horse racing. The Office of Racing Commissioner (ORC) was established at this time. Currently, the ORC functions under the Horse Racing Law of 1995, as amended, and in accordance with the Racing Commissioner General Rules. The ORC is an independent agency created within the Department of Agriculture, in accordance with the Executive Organization Act of 1965. The current Commissioner is Christine C. White. Her job is to promote safety, security and growth and integrity of all horse racing and pari-mutuel wagering on the results of horse races and simulcasting conducted at licensed race meetings within Michigan. Their website is

The Michgian Lottery

On May 16, 1972, voters approve a constitutional amendment by a 2-to-1 margin, enabling the establishment of a state lottery. Following the wishes of the majority, Governor William Milliken signed into law Public Act 239 on August 1, 1972. Gus Harrison was appointed the first Lottery Commissioner on August 1, 1972.

June 11, 1996 – Lottery Commissioner Bill Martin announced the introduction of “The Big Game” – a new multistate lottery game. Michigan joined Illinois , Maryland , Massachusetts and Virginia in this multistate lottery game, with tickets scheduled to go on sale in the fall of 1996. By 2002 the Big Game grew to include nine states as the New York Lottery and Ohio Lottery began ticket sales. Upon the addition of the two new states, the name of the game was changed to Mega Millions.

In the Fall of 2003 tickets for the Lottery’s new Club Games, Club Keno and Pull Tabs went on sale at bars and restaurants that had been licensed to sell these Lottery products.

In September 30, 2007 the Lottery closed the fiscal year with a record contribution to the School Aid Fund of $748.9 million. The Michigan Lottery contributes $1 million each year to help fund education and treatment programs on compulsive gambling. Since its inception in 1972, the Michigan Lottery has generated over $14.3 billion in net revenues to support K-12 public education in Michigan.

The current Director of the Lottery is M. Scott Bowen. Their website is

Charitable Gambling

In 1972 Act 382 was passed to allow nonprofit organizations to raise funds for their lawful purposes through the conduct of licensed bingo games, millionaire parties, raffles, and the sale of charity game tickets. It also allows for the licensing of bingo halls and suppliers. This Act was revised and on March 12, 2007 the Charitable Gaming Rules became effective. They are organized by subject, e.g., General, Gaming, Licensing, Bingo, Millionaire Party, etc. Administrative rules provide additional definitions and guidance for the conduct of charitable gaming activities.

Casino The first Tribal Casino was opened in Mt. Pleasant by the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe. The State signed a compact with the tribe in 1993 and the Tribe made the first 2% of their winnings distribution in the spring of 1994. The amount of $531,763.00 was distributed to several county and city municipalities. In the Spring of 2007 the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe distributed $3,608,148.50 to city and township governments, schools, and other organizations.

Tribal-State Gaming Compacts are written agreements between the tribal communities and the State, which are signed by the Governor. There are currently 11 State-Tribal Compacts signed in 1993 & 1998. The Compacts signed in 1998 require the Tribes to pay the State 8% of their Net Wins on electronic games of chance and 2% to local municipalities. There are nineteen Tribal casinos.

Native American tribes are sovereign nations. As such, neither the State of Michigan nor the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) has regulatory authority over tribal casinos. They are regulated by the National Indian Gaming Commission and/or the government of the appropriate tribal community.

November 1996, Michigan voters approved Proposal E, effectively authorizing three licensed casinos to be built in Detroit . Proposal E was later substantially improved and strengthened, then signed into law as the Michigan Gaming Control & Revenue Act, as amended (Public Act 69 of 1997; MCL 432.201).

The three Detroit casinos; Greek Town , MGM, and Motor City are governed by the Michigan Gaming Control Board. Information about the profits of these casinos, and money paid to the state and city can be found on the MGCB web site.

A program to help gamblers who want to stop gambling at these facilities, The Dissociated Persons List, is also on their website.

Youth Gambling

The popularity of Texas Holdem card parties has introduced many teens to gambling. This is a national phenomenon. It is however, illegal in Michigan for anyone under the age of eighteen to gamble.

Sports Gambling

Due to the general acceptability of gambling and the importance placed on sports within the social fabric of American culture, betting on sports is often the first experience one may have with gambling. Sports bets include purchasing Super Bowl squares, filling out NCAA Tournament brackets, wagering via parlay cards, and bets with bookmakers and online betting sites.

Michigan law MCL 750.301 prohibits wagering money, goods or services on the results of unknown races, contests or games with a misdemeanor punishment of up to one year in jail and fines of not more than $1,000. This statute covers bets on ‘socially acceptable’ gambling opportunities such as Super Bowl squares and the NCAA Tournament, in addition to straight and parlay bets with illegal bookmakers or online sports wagering websites. In addition, MCL 432.218 prohibits the conducting of a gambling operation commonly referred to as bookmaking. This type of activity is deemed more serious than simply placing wagers and is a punishable felony with fines up to $100,000 and not more than 10 years in jail. Michigan law is based on the following three Acts.

Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA)

Congress enacted the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 1992 which made it illegal to “sponsor, operate, advertise, promote…a betting, gambling or wagering scheme… on competitive games in which amateur or professional athletes participate.” This legislation effectively limited legal gambling on sports to the state of Nevada, with minor grand-fathered exceptions to Delaware, Oregon and Montana. Also excluded by the PASPA were jai alai, primarily played in Florida, horse racing and dog racing.

Interstate Wire Act

In 1961, Congress passed the Interstate Wire Act for the express purpose of prohibiting and restricting the operation of sports gambling businesses. This law was designed to stop illegal bookmakers, not individual gamblers. The statute was designed to stop the transmission of wagers or betting information via various communication devices. Subsequent interpretations by U.S. courts have clarified that this statute only prohibits sports wagering, not other forms of gambling. The Supreme Court has not delivered an opinion on the scope of the Act.

Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act

Lastly, The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 is legislation which restricts persons running gambling operations. This law, specifically Section 5363, makes it illegal for operators of online gambling sites to accept funds from bettors but does not restrict gamblers from placing wagers. These funds are defined as extended credit, electronic transfers, checks, money orders, and other forms of financial transactions. One major result of this new law has been increased traffic with illegal bookmakers due to less wagers being placed through online sites.

Tim Otteman, Ed.D CMU,