Bill's sponsor will try again in 2019

Michigan Is The Biggest Loser Under Governor’s Online Gambling Veto

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In deciding to veto a set of online gambling bills, former Gov. Rick Snyder left Michiganders with a lump of coal in their stockings on his way out the door.

The Michigan legislature green-lit online gambling expansion with broad support in both chambers on Dec. 21, but Snyder pulled a surprise move during the Christmas break. He vetoed dozens of bills, including the iGaming package.

As the basis for his actions, the governor cited concerns over the implications for the Michigan Lottery and, by extension, education funding. The state’s foray into online lottery sales has been an unbridled success, of course, and the agency was no doubt in Snyder’s ear about the potential impacts from online gambling.

Veto just a bump in the road?

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Brandt Iden, called the veto “incredibly disappointing” in a follow-up interview with Online Poker Report.

“We had no idea this was coming,” Iden said. “We had all the stakeholders supportive of the package and we had alleviated any concerns, so this is a very surprising outcome.”

The third-term lawmaker plans to reintroduce online gambling alongside a sports betting bill when the legislature reconvenes in 2019. The hope is that the compromises from 2018 will carry over to the new session.

And perhaps incoming Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will be more amenable to the idea than her predecessor.

Whitmer isn’t the only unknown in the process, though. With a slew of new lawmakers headed to the statehouse, Iden understands that online gambling is still a relatively new and niche topic:

“I saw, over the course of the last two years, the time it takes to educate people on these issues and get them up to speed on where we are. I’m going to need to do that again, but I’m fully prepared to do so and confident we will have a successful 2019.

“It took a long time to get here, and this is a bump in the road, but I’m confident it will get done.”

Forfeiting jobs, revenue, safeguards

The veto denies Michiganders access to legal, regulated online poker and casino sites — and the consumer protections that come with them.

Instead, the status quo persists. Residents remain at the mercy of unregulated, offshore operators that continue to find Michigan “open for business” under Snyder’s veto.

In addition to placing his constituents at ongoing risk, Synder’s actions also:

The New Jersey online gambling industry (pre-sports betting) is responsible for 3,375 jobs according to a white paper published by the iDevelopment and Economic Association.

Michigan’s struggling horse racing industry provides one easy example of the positive economic impact online gambling could bring. In a recent statement, the Michigan Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association indicated that the veto jeopardizes the reopening of Sports Creek Raceway.

The legislation would have earmarked up to $3 million annually for horse racing while removing certain restrictions on wagering.

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A lasting legacy of Snyder missteps

Snyder’s legacy was cemented long before his decision to veto the online gambling bills, to be fair. His administration will forever have a black mark from the gross causation and subsequent mishandling of the Flint water crisis.

Snyder also oversaw controversial tax reforms, and the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency scandal occurred during his tenure, too.

In the grand scheme of things, denying the state millions of dollars and thousands of jobs — and ensuring that Michiganders continue to gamble on unregulated websites — is pretty small potatoes.

- Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.
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