Lawful Internet Gaming Act Passes Michigan House
Michigan State Representative Brandt Iden did it. He found the support needed to pass the Lawful Internet Gaming Act through the House of Representatives before the end of the spring legislative session, and the bill now heads to the Senate for consideration later this year.
Iden began championing online poker and casino games in September 2017, taking the House side of the fight for online gaming to complement State Senator Mike Kowall’s efforts in the Senate. And despite many obstacles, he hosted necessary meetings and worked through tough conversations through the winter and into the spring session. Ultimately, his optimism paid off, and he passed his bill before the June 21 deadline.
— The Detroit News (@detroitnews) June 13, 2018
Online poker, casino games, and sports betting will now be considered when the Michigan Senate returns to work at the end of July and beginning of August.
How Iden Did It
When Iden introduced HB.4926 on September 12, 2017, it was a complimentary bill to Kowall’s SB.203, the Lawful Internet Gaming Act. While a hearing and some momentum spurred the House bill in the right direction, there were concerns from various parties, most notably the state’s Native American tribes that operated land-based gambling facilities.
Progress was made in 2017, but more time was needed. Iden spent time during the winter legislative recess and the spring session working out the details and writing a new draft of the bill per negotiations with tribes and commercial casino owners.
By the end of March, Iden’s new draft began making its way through the hallways of the Michigan legislature to work out the kinks. But tribal concerns remained a potential deal-breaker all the way through May and into June, the most prominent of which was the tribes’ fear that the United States government could step in at any point to prohibit Native Americans from offering online gambling. In that unlikely case, tribes would be forced to suspend online gaming while commercial casinos could continue their services to Michigan residents uninterrupted. Tribal leaders wanted protections in the state bill, but commercial casinos insisted otherwise.
“I believe that the tribal casinos ended up with 90-plus percent of what they wanted in this,” Iden said, indicating a “poison pill” that would rescind online gambling from tribal casinos if the federal government rules that tribal casinos are not able to participate in gaming off reservation.
While the issue was poised to stall the bill indefinitely, Iden pushed forward. “I believe that the tribal casinos ended up with 90-plus percent of what they wanted in this,” he told the Detroit News.
And on June 12, 2018, after a third reading in the House, the vote took place and resulted in a 68-40 count to pass it.
— PokerPlayersAlliance (@ppapoker) June 13, 2018
Senate Movement to be Top Fall Priority
Some legislators have been hard at work on the legalization of online poker and casino games, but sports betting is the likely addition that will put the proposal over the top. After the US Supreme Court overturned the prevailing federal sports betting law in May, states like Michigan have been anxious to use the ruling of the court to legalize and regulate their own sports betting frameworks.
The Lawful Internet Gaming Act will do just that. The first step to establishing a sports betting regime is to obtain the legislature’s approval for the Michigan Gaming Control Board to draft that framework. As Iden told the Detroit News, “The gaming commission is looking for the legislature to take the initial step. They believe they have the parameters to do it, but one of the things we need to set up is that tax rate.”
Meanwhile, Michigan casino entities watch as New Jersey continues to reap the rewards of its online gaming industry and opens its new sports betting business this week, all while Pennsylvania establishes its online gaming system that will see sites launch later this year.
Iden is confident that the Senate will act when the legislature returns to work after its summer break. It seemed that the House was the toughest obstacle to overcome, and the Senate is likely to work out any differences over the summer to find an appealing bill when it reconvenes.
As Iden told the Detroit Free Press, “When we come back in the fall, this is going to be at the top of the agenda. Michigan should be at the forefront of that.”
The first day of work for the fall session of the Michigan House and Senate is July 25, 2018.