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Rep. Brandt Iden retained his seat in the Michigan statehouse by the narrowest of margins in Tuesday’s midterm elections.
Numbers out of the 61st District show the Republican incumbent as the winner by fewer than 1,300 votes (51%-49%) against Democratic challenger Alberta Griffin.
The district has been tightly contested in each of Iden’s three races, electing him by fewer than 2,500 votes in 2014 and 2016. This 2018 battle remained undecided overnight before closing in his favor late Wednesday morning. Data comes from the New York Times.
Tuesday’s results are certainly favorable for those looking to expand gambling in the state. Rep. Iden’s online gambling bill from 2017 (H 4926) represents the most serious, sweeping attempt to authorize casino-style iGaming in the state.
The so-called Lawful Internet Gaming Act made some forward progress this year, too. The proposal cleared the House by a comfortable 68-40 vote in June before stalling in its first Senate committee. A separate but similar measure in the upper chamber (S 203) did advance through a committee but failed to reach the floor.
So although the finish line has been elusive, there’s at least some appetite for Michigan online gambling — even apart from Iden. His presence, however, will continue to serve as the anchor for the issue in Lansing for the next two years.
That being said, supporters have a tough road in front of them.
Any expansion in Michigan is complicated by constitutional language and, perhaps more importantly, the dense tribal gaming landscape. Some stakeholders still maintain reservations about potential cannibalization of Detroit casinos and the Michigan online lottery, too.
Those concerns have been debunked in markets like New Jersey, but they linger.
It’s also worth mentioning that 2017-18 bills do not carryover to odd years in Michigan, so Iden would need to begin the process anew if he seeks to sponsor more gambling legislation in 2019.
Iden’s re-election should help preserve Michigan’s apparent momentum toward expansion. And gambling issues were more directly on the ballot in a few other states, too.
In Florida, voters said yes to Amendment 3 as a way to regain control over the future of their industry. Disney and the Seminole Tribe spent more than $15 million apiece to strip the legislature of its power to introduce new gambling legislation. Voters now have the exclusive authority to initiate future expansion, including for online gambling and sports betting.
Arkansas, however, should have legal sports betting in 2019. Voters approved Issue 4, authorizing casino gambling and sports betting at four locations in the state. Regulators have until June 1 of next year to begin fielding applications.
And in Louisiana, daily fantasy sports was up for a vote in each individual parish. The proposal found patchwork approval in 47 of the 64 jurisdictions, covering a majority of the state’s population centers. So, DFS is now legal in some of Louisiana, at least.
Cleaning up the other ballot initiatives related to gambling: