Michigan Online Gaming Progress Predicted
Just two weeks ago, it looked as if Michigan online gaming efforts would continue to progress, but chances of passing legislation in 2017 were slim. Today, an online gaming bill sponsor seems hopeful to pass a bill through the Michigan House of Representatives before the end of November.
While the timeline may seem unrealistic in comparison to other states that have struggled with online gaming legislation for years, especially for a state with Native American interests, it is difficult to dismiss the intentions. Politics is a strange business.
When We Last Visited Efforts in Michigan
State Senator Mike Kowall’s SB.203 had passed the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee but was met with opposition from tribes with gaming interests. All parties began discussions, led by Kowall, over the summer and fall months.
On the other side of the legislature, State Representative Brandt Iden surprised the online gaming community with a bill of his own when he introduced HB.4926 in mid-September. He held an informational hearing in the House Regulatory Reform Committee, at which questions arose that Iden wanted to address with a revised bill. He, too, initiated discussions with interested parties.
Iden was positive about the bill in all interviews, however. He believed the House would pass his bill first, and the Senate would follow. His overall goal was to push the bill far enough that it would at least be considered as revenue in the 2018-2019 budget when it is finalized early next year.
Kowall was not as optimistic. He noted that discussions for his bill were going very slowly and saw little chance of passage in 2017 despite earlier confidence. He likely discovered the many complexities amidst talks with tribes and land-based casinos and realized that negotiations would take longer than he originally anticipated.
Iden Doubles Down on Optimism
In an interview with Online Poker Report about his bill, Iden seemed fairly certain of House movement in the next few months and expressed even more optimism than in the past. Despite the difficulties Kowall has experienced with the Senate bill, Iden was very positive.
“Throughout the month of October, I’m hoping to gain a lot of headway,” he told OPR. “If I had my way, we’ll be able to get everyone to the table and put a bill together and through the House before the Thanksgiving holiday. We’ll see how achievable it is, but that’s my goal.”
Over the course of the interview, Iden explained some of the reasons for his hopefulness, not the least of which was revenue. He noted that the casinos – commercial and tribal – are interested in new revenue streams and bringing new generations of players to their facilities. But he does realize the obstacles that stand in the way, such as the competition that exists between commercial gaming, which is regulated by the state, and tribal gaming, which is not. “I believe that there is a middle ground that can be reached,” he said, reiterating his confidence.
Iden has asked for input from all stakeholders and plans to meet with them at various times throughout October. He is allowing tribes to keep their sovereign immunity, though compacts will have to be revised. He wants all parties to feel as if they have something to gain in the new industry, and he expects them all to make some concessions in order to get there.
As far as the delays and hesitancy from Kowall, Iden feels he can spur movement by pushing his bill. “It was a little stalled over there, so we’re hoping to jup tart things by getting it through the House side first,” he noted.
Of course, Iden knows that he must obtain committee approval before bringing it to the House floor, and he will need support from all tribes and commercial casino operators to get the votes from the legislators. However, he is encouraged by the fact that the Michigan House passed a bill this year to legalize and regulate online horse race betting.
It is clear that Iden sees the bigger picture with regard to online poker and casino games. This was demonstrated by this quote to OPR: “I want Michigan to be an iGaming model. I want other states, as they begin to come on board, because it will continue to happen, to say look what Michigan did. They’ve gone through the perils of this, worked through issues with tribes and others, and come up with model legislation.”
If Iden can make it happen and spur that kind of momentum, online poker and gaming fans will be pleasantly surprised.
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