Democrat wants it to ‘decriminalize’ office pools as well
Millions of Americans are placing bets on the NCAA men’s basketball tournament either in office pools or online.
But in Michigan, betting on sports is illegal.
A Detroit Democrat wants to change that. Rep. LaMar Lemmons III has introduced a bill that would allow sports pools at casinos.
Making office pools legal would be more complicated. Under state law, any expansion of gambling requires voter approval.
Lemmons’ bill would allow pools to accept wagers on almost all sporting events and set their own odds.
Lemmons said the bill would make Detroit more competitive as a Rubah4d gaming destination with Las Vegas and Atlantic City.
“We’re competing with one hand tied behind our backs,” Lemmons said. He said he didn’t have an estimate on how much money Detroit casinos could make, but he called it “substantial.”
The bill is before the House Government Operations Committee. Rep. Leon Drolet, its chair, has not scheduled it for a hearing.
“I’d personally support people’s ability to do whatever they want with their own money as long as they’re not hurting anybody else,” said Drolet, R-Macomb Township. “Bills like this come up every year around March Madness but haven’t gone anywhere.”
State police don’t have the resources to investigate every single private office pool, said Lt. Brian Albright, adding that MSP has investigated larger gambling pools that included non-sports betting.
Drolet said the bill should be expanded to include private office pools to “decriminalize what’s happening in every office across Michigan.”
But the odds are stacked against Lemmons’ bill. Even if the Legislature and governor back it, each potential sports betting pool would need voter approval. Proposal 1 of 2004 requires that any new gaming operation be approved by both local and statewide referendums.
Legislators say that despite widespread participation in office pools, this bill may get shuffled down the list in favor of any of the other 135 bills before the committee.
In other words, don’t bet on it.