Michigan Lawmakers Try Internet Gaming Bills Again
Last year was a bittersweet one for online poker fans in Michigan and those watching from across America. Lawmakers went to great efforts to find consensus on internet gaming bills, and support grew as the year progressed. Hope lived that Michigan would become the fifth state to legalize online poker in the new American gambling market.
By the end of the year, State Senator Mike Kowall and Representative Brandt Iden made their moves, pushing the Lawful Internet Gaming Act for a mid-December vote. And it worked. Both houses of the state legislature passed the bill on the last day possible in the session, and it then went to Governor Rick Snyder for his signature.
When the shock of the veto wore off, Kowall took to the news media to express his optimism that online gambling would be legalized in 2019, despite his own absence in the state legislature this year due to term limits. Kowall felt that his colleagues in Michigan would be able to push a bill forward again and do so with the support of the state’s newly-elected Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
NEW: Michigan Lawful Internet Gaming Act is currently being redrafted. Could be introduced as early as this month. Bill will more than likely be identical to the one ex-Gov. Snyder vetoed. Obviously can change as session continues, but we'll be starting right where we left off.
— Brian Pempus (@brianpempus) January 14, 2019
Last week, that movement officially got underway.
Nice Pair of Bills
On March 7, two bills were introduced to the Michigan legislature. The Senate and House bills seem to be identical, and each is referred to as the 2019 Lawful Internet Gaming Act.
Democratic Senator Curtis Hertel Jr. introduced the Senate bill (SB.186), seemingly carrying on the mission left by Kowall. The bill was immediately referred to the Committee on Regulatory Reform.
Iden, who had been the most outspoken champion of online gambling in 2018, introduced HB.4311. It also went to the Committee on Regulatory Reform.
The essence of both bills is in each introduction. Along with creating the Lawful Internet Gaming Act, each bill would also do the following:
–to impose requirements for persons to engage in internet gaming
–to create the Division of Internet Gaming
–to provide for the powers and duties of the Division of Internet Gaming and other state governmental officers and entities
–to impose fees
–to impose tax and other payment obligations on the conduct of licensed internet gaming
–to create the internet gaming fund
–to prohibit certain acts in relation to internet gaming and to prescribe penalties for those violations
–to require the promulgation of rules
–to provide remedies
To be a bit more specific, the law would require operators to apply for a $200,000 internet gaming license, which will then cost $100,000 each year to renew. Gross gaming revenue will be taxed at 8%. Most of the details seem to mimic those in the 2018 bill that passed both houses of the Michigan legislature.
— Poker Alliance (@ppapoker) March 7, 2019
House Bill First Up on March 12
It seems that Iden is wasting no time putting his bill up for a committee discussion. HB.4311 is one of several gambling related bills on the agenda for a Regulatory Reform Committee meeting scheduled for the morning of Tuesday, March 12.
Iden is not only responsible for HB.4311 but for associated HB.4307 to amend current Michigan laws related to gaming and revenue. Iden also introduced HB.4308, which would legalize fantasy sports contests. Committee Chair Michael Webber is the sponsor of an associated bill for DFS. Other bills include a horse racing initiative from Rep. Hank Vaupel, bingo and charitable gaming bill from Rep. John Chirkun, and HB.4312 from Rep. Wendell Byrd, which specifies criminal procedures for violating Iden’s Lawful Internet Gaming Act.
The entire meeting agenda revolves around gambling issues for the state of Michigan.
No Deadlines Looming
Some states have strict and short legislative calendars that put deadlines on new bills as early as February and March. Michigan does not put such restrictions on its lawmakers, as they generally work through Memorial Day on any legislation. They can even work into June if necessary.
However, it seems unlikely that Iden would want to drag this out in 2019. After much hard work in 2018 and plenty of support for online poker and casino games in both houses of the legislature, he will likely push the bill through quickly. And if he has the support of the new governor, there will be no reason to delay the bills.
It also seems that the current kerfuffle over the Wire Act, specifically the newest Department of Justice opinion that reversed the 2011 opinion, will have no effect on Iden’s decision to move forward. Iden even expressed doubt recently that the DOJ will enforce the opinion.
— Ewa Bakun (@EwaBakun) January 25, 2019
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