Movement for Michigan Online Poker Bill

Movement for Michigan Online Poker Bill
Michigan could follow Pennsylvania to legalize online poker

The push for online poker and casino games in Michigan became the talk of the American online gaming industry in 2017 when State Senator Mike Kowall and Representative Brandt Iden began to coordinate efforts. As Kowall worked on revisions for his bill, Iden expressed unfettered optimism about his proposal and confidence in his ability to pass it.

While momentum slowed – at least looking in from the outside – trough the holidays and the first few months of 2018, the lawmakers were doing work behind the scenes. And as May got underway, word of Iden’s progress made its way to industry insiders. The Poker Players Alliance intensified its focus on Michigan, and reports surfaced of a revised online gaming bill finding support in the House.

Many poker fans’ eyes may be on New York for its online poker potential, but there are reasons to keep one eye on Michigan as well.

House Online Gaming Bill Draft Still a Mystery

Days after Iden told Chris Krafcik of Gambling Compliance that he’s been amassing votes for his revised online gambling bill, the draft has yet to be revealed.

Even so, support for the proposal is vital in order to ensure an enthusiastic response when the bill does come to light. As it stands, HB.4926 still reflects its 2017 wording and status, which is that it was referred for a second reading in the House Regulatory Reform Committee on December 13. In addition to Iden listed as the bill’s sponsor, the other names attached to it are Representatives Kathy Crawford, Robert Kosowski, and Klint Kesto.

Bundled for Additional Support

As Krafcik reported, the new online gambling bill draft includes online sports betting. The bundling of online poker and casino games with sports betting gives it even more momentum, as many states are passing sports betting legislation in anticipation of the United States Supreme Court decision on that issue. A ruling is expected sometime this month in the case brought by New Jersey in the hopes of overturning the federal sports betting statute and giving the right to legalize to all individual states.

This revised bill is likely to have a companion on the Senate side. As noted at the end of March, Kowall was working on a revision to his SB.203. While there were no online sports betting provisions included in the draft at the time, the bill did include input from the Senate Majority Leader and was not yet finalized.

There is every reason to suspect that Kowall and Iden have been working together to ensure the bills on both sides of the legislature are complimentary and can move in sync. And if Iden’s bill claims to have support for the bundled online gaming and sports betting bill, there is likely similar support on the House side for a similar measure.

Timing is Everything

Iden likely has a plan for his HB.4926, and the same can be said of the seasoned legislator, Kowall.

One strategy may be to put the finishing touches on the bills while awaiting the US Supreme Court decision on sports betting, and to then release the drafts for quick movement if a positive decision gives the go-ahead for sports betting. If the court rules against New Jersey, there may be an alternative plan to push online poker and casino games on their own.

Another strategy is to wait for the ideal voting scenario, such as before the summer break when legislators want to close any pending issues in order to leave the capital with as many bills passed as possible. This timing would be something Iden and Kowall would know and could plan around.

There are numerous possibilities.

What is known is that the issue is gathering momentum again in 2018. Much of the activity, especially from Iden, came in the latter part of last year, putting too much of a rush on a complicated proposal. But the negotiations throughout the latter part of 2017 and early months of 2018 may have paid off if the lawmakers in charge of the bills play their cards right.

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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