Sponsor still plans to move Michigan iGaming bill

Michigan Lawmaker Preparing For Another Year Without Online Gambling

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Hopes for the legalization of internet gambling in Michigan this year aren’t dead yet, but the legislative sponsor is preparing for the likelihood that the Lawful Internet Gaming Act won’t get past the governor’s pen.

Rep. Brandt Iden is also crafting the Lawful Sports Betting Act to authorize mobile sports wagering without attaching it to other forms of online gambling.

However, Iden told Online Poker Report that just because the bills no longer are tie-barred, it doesn’t mean he is changing his strategy of pushing the bills together. In fact, he asserts that both bills will pass the House.

“I see these as a package of bills that all go together,” Iden said. “The internet gaming bill is just as important to me as it’s always been. I believe they go together and will continue to move them as such, but this does provide another option, in my opinion.”

Support still there for Michigan online gambling

Iden pushed iGaming passed through the Michigan Legislature last year only to see a surprise veto from then-Gov. Rick Snyder.

Even with new Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in opposition of H 4311 as it currently stands, Iden believes it will see bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.

“We’ve had people on the record supporting this issue before,” Iden said. “The support is still there. I think the votes are there in the Senate as well. Nothing has changed. We still have the votes and support we’ve always had.”

Michigan lawmaker wants to work with the governor

Iden plans to hold up the iGaming and sports betting bills in the House Ways and Means Committee that he chairs until the end of this month to allow Whitmer and her staff the opportunity to negotiate on language in the legislation.

However, there is no indication that Whitmer intends to come to the table. Iden indicated that Whitmer has not engaged with him on the bill since the governor’s office issued a report with outrageous asks for online gambling.

Whitmer, a Democrat, has a somewhat contentious relationship with the Republican-controlled legislature that seems to be getting worse.

The governor clashed with Republican leaders over the recently signed state budget, leaving little room for optimism that she will come to an agreement on iGaming in the final months of the session.

Iden may push forward regardless

Even if Whitmer and Iden start meeting regularly to discuss iGaming, the sides seem too far apart to make a deal.

Whitmer has similar concerns to Snyder regarding cannibalization of the lottery, lessening educational funding, and diminishing state revenues from the higher-taxed retail gambling. Her solutions are sky-high taxes and fees along with the removal of online slots, both unacceptable to industry stakeholders, according to Iden.

The sponsor wants to put a bill on the governor’s desk that she supports, but he plans to put a bill on her desk regardless.

“I think in order for Michigan to be competitive, this legislation needs to be in place,” Iden said. “I’ve made every good-faith effort to have conversations with the governor’s office and help educate them on this issue. If they are not going to be responsible, I’ll have to continue advancing the legislation and working the process internally with colleagues in the House and Senate, and hopefully at some stage that will bring the governor to the table.”

- 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, Politico.com and CNN.com. Matt also has written on a variety of topics for Playboy Magazine, Men's Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.
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