Michigan Commercial Casino Gaming Celebrates 25th Anniversary of Legalization

Michigan Commercial Casino Gaming Celebrates 25th Anniversary of Legalization
By Bill Ordine
Fact Checked by Thomas Leary

The Michigan Gaming Control Board observed the 25-year anniversary of the authorization of legalized commercial casino gaming in the state by noting that $2.52 billion in taxes have been raised in gambling taxes from various gaming activities, both in-person and through Michigan real money online casinos, to support education. 

The Michigan Gaming Control and Revenue Act was signed by former Gov. John Engler on July 17, 1997, after voters had approved casino gaming the previous year.  

Subsequently, three commercial casinos opened in Detroit with the MGM Grand Detroit being the first in July 1999. Tribal casino gaming had preceded the commercial casinos in the state by more than a decade.

A major advance for gambling in Michigan came on Dec. 20, 2019 when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the Lawful Internet Gaming Act, Lawful Sports Betting Act, and the Fantasy Contests Consumer Protection Act. That ushered in legal and regulated sports wagering (in-person and online) and internet casino gambling, as well as recognized real-money fantasy contests. 

In addition to the $2.52 billion raised to support K-12 schools since the authorizing act for commercial gaming was signed in 1997, $3.44 billion in tax revenue has gone to the city of Detroit from 1999 through 2021 from the casinos there.

Education has been the biggest beneficiary of gambling taxes through the $2.52 billion in tax money and of that amount, more than 97%, or $2.43 billion, has come from the relatively long history of bricks-and-mortar casino play, slots and table games.

Internet Gaming Also A Big Contributor

However, internet gaming such as online poker is beginning to show its potential as a tax generator.

In its relatively brief history as a gaming option in Michigan, internet casino gaming through platforms such as FanDuel Casino Michigan has generated $87.2 million in tax money. 

Regarding sports betting in Michigan, which is also a recent wagering option, retail sportsbooks have produced $1.7 million in taxes and internet sports gambling has contributed $1.8 million. 

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Gaming Proves Its Worth in Michigan

“Legal, regulated gaming has grown in Michigan in ways no one likely imagined in 1997,” Henry Williams, the Michigan Gaming Control Board executive director, said in a news release. “At that time, the internet had about 130 million users, and many thought it was a passing fad. The focus was on the brick-and-mortar casinos and what they could do for the city of Detroit. Both forms of gaming have proven their worth in raising funding for Michigan’s schools.”

Williams elaborated on the importance of gaming’s role in financing education.

“Dollars invested in education are critical to the development of Michigan’s future workforce,” he said. “My MGCB colleagues and I are proud to play our role in helping Michigan schools by collecting wagering taxes on legal, regulated gaming.”

The Tax Breakdown

The Detroit gaming tax revenue loosely follows statewide figures in that the bulk is from retail slots and table games at the casinos. 

Of the total $3.44 billion in tax money raised for Detroit through 2021, $3.39 billion (more than 98% of the total) has been from retail tables and slots; $48 million from internet casino gaming; $2.1 million from retail sports betting, and $2.7 million from internet sports betting on Michigan betting apps.

The MGCB noted that that it has tracked and confirmed taxes since 2012, and taxes for 1999-2011 are estimated.

Also as part of its role, the gaming control board reviews applications, conducts investigations and performs other tasks behind the scenes of legal gaming.



A longtime reporter and editor who began writing on casinos and gaming shortly after Atlantic City’s first gambling halls opened, Bill covered the world Series of Poker and wrote a syndicated column on travel to casino destinations for a decade.

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