Michigan Online Gaming Pushes Back, Minus Naysaying Governor Snyder

Posted on: March 11, 2019, 04:09h. 

Last updated on: March 11, 2019, 04:10h.

Michigan State Rep. Brandt Iden (R-61st) has reintroduced an online casino bill that last year came as close to becoming law as it is possible to do without actually making it over the line.

Michigan online gaming
Gretchen Whitmer was inaugurated as Michigan’s new Democratic governor in January. Republican Rick Snyder — who served as governor from 2010 to 2018 — stands directly behind her. (Image: Carlos Osorio/AP)

Iden’s bill had been passed by the House last summer but rejected by the Senate. On December 20 — as the clocked ticked down in the final moment of last year’s lame duck session — an amended form of the bill suddenly reappeared in the Senate, found approval on the floor, and was batted back to the house, which passed the bill at 3.30am — the final legislative action before the Christmas Holidays.

In doing so, the legislature became just the fifth in the nation to authorize online gaming — a culmination of several years of effort, first by Sen. Mike Kowell, and then by Iden, who grabbed the baton when the former retired at the end of the 2017 session.

Snyder Kills Bill

But the state’s then Republican governor, Rick Snyder, having served his second term, was not prepared to go quietly. Snyder unexpectedly vetoed the bill — along with 41 other measures sent to his desk — during the Christmas period.

I do not think it is appropriate to sign legislation that will effectively result in more gambling, with a reasonable chance that the state could lose revenue that could be helpful in dealing with social service issues that are ordinarily attendant to increased gambling behavior,” Snyder wrote in a veto letter to lawmakers.

Iden’s resubmitted bill is due for its first hearing in the House Regulatory Reform Committee on Tuesday and he believes its passage through the legislature should be smoother this year, with more bipartisan support.

“The issue has been thoroughly vetted, and people have an interest in a bill they already voted for,” he told OnlinePokerReport Monday. “I welcome having Democrat support on the bill and think it will be a key factor as it makes its way to the governor’s desk.”

Whitmer’s Stance Unclear

He also has a new governor in the form of Democrat Gretchen Whitmer. Whitmer’s personal feelings on online gaming are unknown, and she was not an active member of the Senate when it voted on Iden’s bill last year. But she did say during her gubernatorial campaign that she ultimately supports sports betting for Massachusetts.

Iden’s bill would authorize online casino gaming and poker, and while it does not explicitly legalize sports betting, it leaves the door open for regulators to do so in the future.

Iden had said he would introduce separate sports betting legislation this year, but that may now be in doubt. He told LegalSportsReport Monday that he was still working through issues with stakeholders, which includes a complicated mix of tribal and commercial casino operators.