Michigan gaming regulators still hold an optimistic outlook on the possibility of a 2020 launch for legal online gambling. Those prospects could hit a snag, however, and it involves the FBI.
The Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) needs FBI approval on language in the Michigan Lawful Internet Gaming Act, pertaining to fingerprint checks on gaming license applicants.
In an MGCB Board meeting Tuesday, Executive Director Richard Kalm announced that the MGCB still awaits a response from the FBI on the fingerprinting issue, which could delay the state’s online gambling launch.
As of now, the MGCB can only access state records when doing fingerprint checks. The FBI must sign off on protocols allowing the MGCB to use federal records to conduct background checks.
The FBI hasn’t yet given its approval on allowing the MGCB to access federal records for the background check process. The MGCB must get that approval from the FBI at some point to complete the licensing approval process for operators applying for online gaming licenses in Michigan.
“We do have a problem with the FBI,” Kalm said with a smile via streaming video at the board meeting. “This is a public forum, so I don’t think we have a problem with them personally. We’re still waiting for approval of a portion of the statute that we had placed in the online gaming statute that allows us to take fingerprints, and get approval for the fingerprint process.”
“We were doing it for years, then the FBI said our statute didn’t support it, the Gaming Act,” continued Kalm. So when we redid the gaming act just recently, we added that language that they said we needed in there, to allow us to not only be able to fingerprint our employees, but fingerprint suppliers and vendors.”
“So we can still do the state fingerprint request, but in order to do our jobs effectively, we needed access to the federal fingerprints.
The full video of Tuesday’s MGCB board meeting can be found through the “join here” link at the top of this page. Kalm’s comments on the FBI issue start at 21:00.
MGCB Says 2020 Online Launch Still On Track
Kalm expressed in the board meeting that the wait on FBI approval could delay the eventual launch of legal online sports betting, casinos, and poker in Michigan.
Since the passage of the Lawful Internet Gaming Act in December, many of the top names in the legal online gambling industry have struck partnerships with Michigan casinos.
Michigan plays host to 26 casinos, including three commercial casinos and 23 tribal properties. Under the Lawful Internet Gaming Act, both commercial and tribal casinos can apply for licenses to offer online sports betting, casinos, and poker.
State casinos can partner with gaming technology companies and other casino brands in the execution of their online products. That setup has attracted brands like FanDuel, DraftKings, The Stars Group, Rush Street Interactive, and Golden Nugget Online Gaming, all vying for a piece of the potentially lucrative Michigan online casino market.
All potential applicants for an internet gaming license must go through an approval process from the MGCB that includes background and fingerprint checks. Until the FBI approves the MGCB for access to federal records, that part of the approval process is on hold.
Michigan Regulators Eager To Launch Online Gaming
The COVID-19 pandemic forced Michigan’s commercial casinos shut down for nearly five months. Michigan’s three Detroit-area commercial properties remained closed from mid-March through August 5.
With those shutdowns came losses in legal gaming revenue for the state. To offset those effects, Michigan lawmakers introduced a bill that would allow state casinos to operate internet gaming without licensing on a temporary basis.
The bill is still pending approval. If passed, however, Michigan’s legal online gambling platforms could launch by the end of 2020.
Kalm, while acknowledging the potential hang-ups of the FBI fingerprinting issue, still expressed optimism that Michigan could still see online gaming products go live by the end of the year.