Local Sports Law Association member talks Supreme Court ruling and future of Michigan sports betting

May 15, 2018

Las Vegas sportsbook
Credit Wikimedia Commons

The Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. The 1992 law barred state-authorized sports gambling with some exceptions.

How does the ruling affect Michigan sports betting? WGVU spoke with a local attorney specializing in the field.

“You know this case potentially opens a huge can of worms.”

Michael Huff is an attorney with Grand Rapids-based law firm Mika Meyers. He is currently a member of the Sports Law Association.

“We’re going to see a lot of states who try to capture initial revenue that’s available by legalizing sports gambling. Projections are seeing anywhere between 20- 30 states may legalize sports gambling in the next five years. Michigan certainly is toward the front end in terms of the state’s that may be adopting some sort of regime. Each of the last two legislative sessions we’ve had bills pending that would allow certain sports gambling within the state. So our legislature is ready to look at this issue and to potentially move fast and implement a regime that would allow sports gambling in the next couple of years. The challenge is there are so many stakeholders involved in these cases. You have the sports leagues who are concerned about revenue generation, protecting their intellectual property and maintaining the integrity of their games. Obviously in the state of Michigan our casinos currently are run through compacts with Indian tribes. You need to make sure that those stakeholders remain satisfied. And then, obviously, there’s just the moral concern from groups that have an opposition to gambling. There’s going to be a lot of different financial interests and legal interests and moral interests really try to get on board with a bill.”

What do you see happening in the end as somebody who really sees this through a couple of different prisms?

“I think Michigan will have some kind of regime that legalizes sports gambling in the next couple of years. The states that have the true advantage are going to be the early adopter states. So, for example, if Indiana of Illinois adopts some sort of regime prior to the point that Michigan does, in those states you’re going to have an infrastructure developed to support these sorts of activities and it’s going to be really difficult for Michigan to see a huge competitive advantage for the state to generate sufficient revenues through some sort of legalized sports gambling. In some ways it’s potentially going to be very good for fan engagement. The professional sports leagues know that if more people are paying attention they’re going to drive more sponsorship revenue. The concern obviously is how do you keep fans engaged in the right way and especially at a team level. If you’re the Detroit Lions, and you’ve struggled on the field the last couple of years, is this going to affect your in-arena experience when you have tons of people come in, checking their cellphone, care more about if their players are potentially winning them money than if the Lions are winning on the field. It’s going to be a really interesting dynamic. It’s going to be interesting to see how that develops in the next few years.”

Patrick Center, WGVU News.