First stop for Michigan online gambling bill

Reintroduced Michigan Online Gambling Bill Up For First Hearing Tuesday

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As January turned into February and gave way to March, folks in Michigan wondered when they would see the return of the online gambling bill from Rep. Brandt Iden.

After the legislature put his bill on the governor’s desk last year only to see it vetoed, the sponsor asserted that he would reintroduce the legislation in 2019.

With spring now appearing on the horizon, Iden finally filed H 4311 last week. So why did it take so long to reintroduce an exact copy of the legislation that passed last year?

Iden told Online Poker Report that the delay allowed him to bring freshman lawmakers up to speed, as well as to get past the governor’s budget proposal.

“We’ve got time in Michigan,” Iden said. “Unlike many state legislatures that are in the final days before wrapping up for the year, we’re just getting started.”

Michigan lawmakers remain in session all year long.

Michigan online gambling up for committee hearing

The Michigan online gambling bill will be heard on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. in the House Regulatory Reform Committee. The schedule indicates that video will be available.

Iden chaired that committee last year, where his bill started its journey. He still has a friend on the dais, too, as new committee chairman Rep. Michael Webber cosponsored and voted for the bill last year.

Although it took until the 11th hour to get stakeholders together in support of the 2018 iGaming bill, Iden indicated that the hearing will show support comparable to that which he drummed up late last year.

“At this point in time, things are very positive,” Iden said of the response to his bill. “I think you’ll see that Tuesday with folks testifying – the same group of supporters that testified last time.”

Path forward for Michigan iGaming

Iden expects the first committee to advance an unaltered bill to Ways and Means, which he now chairs. There, it will receive any necessary amendments before going to the House floor.

The sponsor expects the bill to have more bipartisan support from the get-go than it did coming out of committee last year. Here’s Iden:

“The issue has been thoroughly vetted, and people have an interest in a bill they already voted for. I welcome having Democrat support on the bill and think it will be a key factor as it makes its way to the governor’s desk.”

The House passed the bill in June last year, but it didn’t make it through the Senate until the final hours of the final legislative day in late December. This time around, Iden wants a House vote in mid-April to get the bill to the governor’s desk in June.

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Better shot at governor’s signature?

The main question is whether or not the governor will sign the bill this time around. The good news is that Gov. Rick Snyder, who issued the 2018 veto, is no longer in office.

New Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, is a former state senator. While she has yet to publicly address iGaming, she did say during her campaign that she supported the idea of legal sports betting in MI.

Iden has yet to have a direct conversation with Whitmer on the issue, but he has had extensive conversations with her staff. The governor’s team has been working to get itself current on the specifics of the bill and the fate that befell it last year.

“They’re working through the process to make sure it’s vetted on her end well before it gets to her desk,” Iden said. “The conversations have been positive and I’m looking forward to working with the governor to bring this bipartisan package to fruition and get it signed.”

- Matthew began writing about legislative efforts to regulate online poker in 2007 after UIGEA interfered with his hobby of playing small-stakes online poker while working as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News. Covering the topic for Bluff Magazine, PokerNews and now Online Poker Report, he has interviewed four U.S. Congressmen and 40+ state legislators. His poker writing has been cited by The Atlantic, and Matt also has written on a variety of topics for Playboy Magazine, Men's Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and
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