Michigan lawmakers moving forward with online gambling legislation once again

Michigan Online Gambling Bill Charting A Direct Path Toward House Vote

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The Michigan online gambling bill from Rep. Brandt Iden is on the move in Lansing.

Iden’s bill (H 4311) was up for its second hearing before the House Regulatory Reform Committee on Tuesday, culminating in a 13-1 vote recommending passage.

Online gambling is just one component of a package of proposed MI gaming legislation, which also includes daily fantasy sports.

MI online gambling bill crosses first hurdle

It’s déjà vu all over again in Michigan.

Some 18 months ago, this same group considered an almost identical bill, amending and advancing it by a 12-3 vote. It was the first step on the long road to passage in both chambers. An unexpected holiday veto from Gov. Rick Snyder was the only thing that kept MI online gambling from becoming law.

It wasn’t exactly the same group that considered the bill, though, as midterm elections have since changed the composition of the legislature. Iden is no longer the chairman — or even a member — of the committee, which now includes nine new faces.

The result was very much the same, however, as the current membership advanced his bill by a lopsided margin. Rep. Frank Liberati was one of three opposed last year, and he cast the lone vote against passage this year.

Iden has worked out the kinks

Passage from last year’s legislature was, frankly, a bit of a surprise. Although the bill had been on file for more than a year, it was still many steps away from the finish line when lawmakers convened for their final day of session.

This year, though, anything less than passage would be a disappointment. Stakeholders have come on board in earnest, and tribal support is a keystone for this piece of legislation.

It looks like the tax rate is fixed, too.

While this bill worked through the process last year, the proposed rate was reduced twice in an effort to get casinos on board. Lawmakers eventually settled on a rate of 8 percent, plus another 1.25 percent from commercial operators in Detroit. As introduced, this year’s bill includes that same tax structure.

During Tuesday’s hearing, the committee voted against a proposed amendment which would have scaled the rate up to 16 percent.

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Next steps for MI online gambling bill

If the tax rate is settled and the late-2018 stakeholders remain on board, there’s no reason Michigan can’t become the sixth US state to legalize online poker.

Following last year’s veto, the sponsors were disappointed and optimistic for 2019 in equal measure. Snyder’s replacement, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, has voiced her support for sports betting and is generally seen as more favorable to online gambling.

The bill now moves to the House Ways & Means Committee, of which Iden is the chairman. Time is no factor, as lawmakers remain in session all year long.

- Eric is a reporter and writer covering regulated US gambling, sports betting, and DFS. He comes from a poker background, formerly on staff at PokerNews and the World Poker Tour.
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