Michigan Top Gaming Regulator Cites Concerns

Michigan Gaming Control Board Executive Director Henry Williams (l.) said he’s concerned about the spread of unregulated gaming machines and online casino and sports betting advertising.

Michigan Top Gaming Regulator Cites Concerns

In an interview with the Michigan Gaming Law Newsletter, Michigan Gaming Control Board Executive Director Henry Williams said one of the agency’s primary concerns was “the proliferation of non-regulated gaming machines in bars, restaurants and party stores. The unregulated machines do not offer consumers the protections of legal, regulated gaming and they also have no controls to prevent underage gambling.”

Williams said last year, the MGCB and Michigan Liquor Control Commission launched an information campaign to educate business owners and the public about the illegal gambling machines. He said the agency last year confiscated 373 gaming machines and 17 individuals were convicted of crimes relating to the games. “We plan to continue to address illegal gambling in Michigan in cooperation with the Michigan Department of Attorney General and other law enforcement agencies across the state,” Williams said.

He noted online casino gambling and internet sports betting have been real successes since they both launched in January 2021. “The level of interest and resulting revenue have far exceeded what the Michigan legislature projected when the gaming bills were under consideration in 2019. We feel the first two years of operation have gone smoothly. We have gone successfully through a provider change for one of the operators and launched expanded options through live dealer and multi-state poker,” Williams said.

But he said, like other state regulators, “We have felt concerns about internet casino gaming and internet sports betting advertising. However, Michigan laws do not give the MGCB regulatory authority over advertising for these forms of gaming. We have shared our concerns with the operators and providers, particularly warning against use of the agency’s logo on their sites. Licensees may indicate they have a Michigan license, but we feel use of the logo incorrectly implies endorsement by our agency,” Williams said.

He added if regulators and lawmakers “may have to rethink advertising regulation” if the industry doesn’t “think through its advertising strategies carefully and approach it responsibly.”

Williams is proud of the agency’s successes regarding responsible gaming programs and services. He said the MGCB sought and received additional funding in fiscal 2023. “The section has grown from one person to a staff of five since I became executive director in 2021.Our Responsible Gaming section has created and distributed information on responsible gaming to community groups and also can make live presentations for community groups. The section interacts with various cultures and is finalizing for distribution written materials which have been translated into multiple languages: Arabic, Mandarin, Vietnamese and Spanish. The agency also will enhance information available on the web. You can expect to hear more about responsible gaming outreach and programs in 2023,” he said.