Michigan Democrat and State Representative Robert Kosowski is the sponsor of bill House Bill 4669, which would allow casinos to take bets on sporting events.
Michigan’s roads are unsafe and unfit for purpose and lawmakers are running out of fundraising options to fix them.
Sports betting could raise up to $500m a year for the Michigan authorities, more than enough to fix the crumbling roads. Kosowski argues that illegal bookmakers are rife, so it would make sense to regulate and reap the tax benefits.
But the scheme would be controversial and could antagonise Native American groups in the state.
There is also a major proviso: The bill could only take place if sports betting were made legal under federal law. Michigan has watched patiently on the sidelines to observe New Jersey's efforts to add their own state legislation enacting sports betting; New Jersey has been held up in federal court and vehemently opposed by the major sports leagues and NCAA.
At present the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 ("PASPA") forbids sports betting, apart from four exempt states – Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana.
New Jersey is currently being sued by the four major pro sports leagues the National Collegiate Athletic Association for trying to allow sports betting in the state.
A US federal appeals court on Wednesday granted New Jersey’s request for a rehearing in a major win for proponents of sports betting, led by Senator Raymond Lesniak whom SBR interviewed earlier this week.
If New Jersey emerges victorious from the three-year battle with the leagues, it could open the floodgates, and Kosowski and his allies could get the windfall they need in Michigan to fix the roads. The Michigan voter base would then have to approve any action the legislature decides on.
The notion of raising much-needed revenue by relaxing gaming laws is gaining traction across the US. Earlier this week Republicans in Pennsylvania proposed a third expansion of gambling in six years to make up a hole in Governor Tom Wolf’s budget. It would allow slots off-track horse racing betting parlors – known in Philadelphia as Turf Clubs – and at airports, raising much needed cash to plough into the state’s stretched education system.