Michigan Could Legalize Online Poker Before Christmas

Michigan Could Legalize Online Poker Before Christmas

Hello again, Michigan.

Poker is once again giving its heart and soul to Michigan in the hopes that the state will reciprocate those feelings. As the year grinds to an end, a few Michigan lawmakers are standing outside of poker’s window, boom box on their shoulder, playing a romantic tune.

They will tie the knot before Christmas, one lawmaker claims.

If online poker supporters have their way, the ceremony will result in both parties going through with their vows, no objections to be heard.

2018 Ended in Heartbreak

Last year, the Michigan legislature had a whirlwind romance with the online poker community. Michigan State Representative Brandt Iden pushed an online gambling bill through the legislature just before Christmas. American poker players and fans celebrated.

But just as the poker community was ready to board the plane for the honeymoon, then-outgoing Governor Rick Snyder canceled the reservation. He vetoed the bill on December 28.

Poker was heartbroken. It seemed to be sulking for many months into 2019.

A Renewed Partnership

Iden never gave up hope, though. He talked to the new governor, and when she stopped talking, Iden stayed in the spotlight, talking to the media and putting compromises forward. While Governor Gretchen Whitmer didn’t make any commitments, efforts continued.

Meanwhile, Iden had found a new partner in the Michigan Senate. With now-former Senator Mike Kowall out of the legislature, Iden needed someone to take up a companion online gambling bill in the Senate. The Republican Representative Iden paired with Democratic Senator Curtis Hertel Jr. to introduce bills into both houses for 2019.

Not much happened from there. Whitmer made it clear she was not interested in a deal, but Iden stayed patient but insistent.

When Whitmer refused to take Iden’s calls, Iden finally responded with a revised bill in an effort to compromise. He was still holding the boom box, just with the volume a little higher.

HB.4311 Passes the House

Out of the blue, during the last week of October – with few days left in the 2019 legislative session – Iden passed his HB.4311 through the Michigan House.

Iden then passed the boom box to Hertel in the Senate. But it was going to be tough, as there were only five days in November and six possible days in December to pass it.

Incidentally, there was also a sports betting bill in the mix. Putting all of the gambling bills together gave them an advantage, as many want sports betting.

Hertel Brings Good News

Apparently, the Democratic lawmaker needed to step into the discussion and talk with the Democratic governor. Hertel not only has a solid working relationship of his own with Whitmer, his father had been the Speaker of the House years ago, and Whitmer worked for him.

Hertel told Legal Sports Report that he was able to work with Whitmer to negotiate a potential solution for sports betting and online gambling, which included online poker and casino games.

Whitmer had been concerned that customers who patronized online casino games would reduce revenue from online lottery sales, thereby reducing the amount of gambling revenue going to the School Aid Fund. Her proposal back to Iden earlier in 2019 had been wildly unfeasible for online gambling operators.

Iden rejected her numbers and tried unsuccessfully to talk to Whitmer, finally just putting forth a compromise bill. That was the one that passed the House Ways and Means Committee by a vote of 10-to-1 and then the full House by 62-to-46.

Hertel facilitated negotiations and brought Whitmer closer to Iden’s most recent bill.

Nearly Complete

According to Legal Sports Report, Hertel said the deal for compromise bills on sports betting and internet gambling are nearly complete.

“Negotiations are going well,” he said. “I fully expect the bills will be on the governor’s desk and signed before Christmas.”

This may all be in motion this week. The Senate Reform Committee will take up the bills this Tuesday, December 10. Hertel expects them to pass through the committee and move to the Senate floor. That gives the Senate a few working days to examine and pass the bill. If there are amendments, they can still refer it back to the House for passage there.

The Michigan Senate is scheduled to be in session this week from December 10-12 and could return the following week, currently shown as tentative working days on the calendar.

There is still time for a happily-ever-after.



About Jennifer Newell

Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world as she also launches a new subscription box company and finishes her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including PokerStars.com and has followed the US poker and gaming market closely for the last 15 years. Follow Jen on Twitter

Disclaimer: The information on this site is my interpretation of the laws as made available online. It is in no way meant to serve as legal advice or instruction. We recommend that you seek legal advice from a licensed attorney for further or official guidance.

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