Michigan Online Gambling Bill Passes First Committee
The sting of last year’s online gambling bill defeat in Michigan took some time to heal. It took well over a year for Michigan Representative Brandt Iden and Senator Mike Kowall to find consensus among lawmakers in the state legislature to pass their bill to legalize online poker and casino games. It took many months of educating, meeting, and negotiating, but they did it. And it was such a long-awaited and much-celebrated victory that it hurt all that much more when then-Governor Rick Snyder vetoed that bill on December 28, 2018.
The first two months of 2019 went by with no new bills from Iden. Some felt he should have introduced new legislation immediately, but few doubted that he would do it eventually.
Enter March. By March 7, Iden put up a new bill in the House – HB.4311 – and State Senator Curtis Hertel Jr. introduced SB.186. And the movement forward began without delay.
One Committee Down
Both bills were referred to as the 2019 Lawful Internet Gaming Act. Both offered online gaming licenses for $200K with renewals set annually at $100K. Both wanted to tax gross gaming revenue at 8%. And both were ready to move.
Iden took the first step. His HB.4311 was put before the House Regulatory Reform Committee, along with other gambling-related bills, for a hearing on March 12.
The hearing went well. Not only did Iden explain his support for the bill thoroughly, and legalized internet gambling benefits for the state and consumers, he specifically noted the success of the same legislation last year. In addition, he was supported by the three major Detroit casinos and Former Poker Alliance President John Pappas representing GeoComply.
So, Iden put HB.4311 back on the docket for this week’s Regulatory Reform Committee meeting.
There was a vote, and HB.4311 passed 13-to-1.
One Committee to Go
With the passage of HB.4311 out of its first committee, it now goes to the Ways and Means Committee. And it should be noted that Iden is the Chair of said committee.
— Poker Alliance (@ppapoker) March 19, 2019
It is not clear when the Ways and Means Committee will take up HB.4311, but no hearings are on its schedule beyond this week. Technically, the bill could come up for discussion and/or a vote as early as next week.
There is little doubt that Iden’s bill will pass the House when it arrives there, and the same is likely for the Senate. Iden has expressed confidence that the bill will pass both houses and arrive on the governor’s desk. That puts its fate in the hands of newly-seated Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
Iden noted that he has had “positive” conversations with Whitmer about online gaming, and WLNS reported that “the new governor is sending signals that she favors this expansion.”
Michigan, as a state, also has a vested interest in online gaming from the perspective of fighting for its right to offer online lottery tickets. The Michigan Bureau of State Lottery was one of many filing an amicus brief in the US District Court case against the Department of Justice, which was originally filed by the New Hampshire Lottery Commission. All parties are fighting against the recent Wire Act opinion that seeks to reverse the opinion that the Wire Act pertains only to sports betting, and it puts state lotteries – and possibly more forms of online gaming – in danger.
Not only did Michigan speak to the court in the case, it filed on behalf of Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, Rhode Island, Colorado, North Carolina, Delaware, Idaho, Vermont, Mississippi, Alaska, and the District of Columbia.
The move was supported by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, and former AG Mike Cox concurred with the state’s move to fight the DOJ’s Wire Act decision. He noted that the federal opinion is “so far off the mainstream” and should leave the issue to states.