Over the past few years, there have been several states that have teased people with the potential to pass online gaming regulations. Pennsylvania did it for some time before pushing it through in 2017, now they’ve opened full online casino gaming and online poker with PokerStars. There isn’t another state on the horizon at this time…or is there?
Michigan Taking Another Shot
Last week the Michigan House of Representatives took up two bills from State Representative Brandt Iden. Iden, who has been a long proponent of online gaming and poker for the Wolverine State, has been tinkering with online gaming legislation for the past three sessions of the Michigan General Assembly. Those bills, called HB.4311 or the “2019 Lawful Internet Gaming Act,” and HB.4916 or the “2019 Lawful Sports Betting Act,” dealt with online gaming and sports betting in one swing.
Iden would bring those bills to the Michigan House Ways and Means Committee, the committee responsible for such legislation, and was able to earn passage of the two bills by a resounding 10-1 margin. The next step was to get through the full House membership, which proved to be little problem. Although there was more opposition to the two proposals in the House, they were passed through by a 62-46 margin (for HB.4311) and 63-45 (for HB.4916).
With the passage through the House out of the way, Iden now faces his toughest two obstacles. One would be the Michigan Senate, which has very little time to pass any legislation, let alone something that could be a rather contentious issue such as online gaming and sports betting. The other would be the Governor of the state, Gretchen Whitmer, who has previously voiced her opposition to online gaming because it could affect state revenues from casino gaming already in place.
Will History Repeat Itself?
You might remember that the state of Michigan – and Representative Iden – have been at the altar before. Just last year, the Michigan General Assembly passed through legislation late in the term that would allow the state to join Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania (not active at that time) in offering their citizens intra-state online gaming and poker. With the overwhelming support of a bipartisan nature in both the Senate and the House, it was thought that outgoing Governor Rick Snyder, who was prevented from running for another term in office, would acquiesce to the people’s will.
Alas, that didn’t happen. Snyder, stating that he believed there had not been enough research into how online gaming would affect the state’s brick and mortar industry, shot down Iden’s bills with a sweeping veto. Snyder not only vetoed the bills, he also waited long enough (Michigan governors have a ten-day period to either sign a bill or veto it) so that the legislature was unable to try to override his veto.
Iden is attempting to make an end run around this situation this year. By getting the bill through the House and Senate early enough, if Whitmer were to veto the bill, the legislature would have enough time to mount an override effort. In the state of Michigan, a two-thirds majority of both the House and Senate would be necessary to be able to rescind the veto. At this moment, the two gaming bills are both just a bit short of the necessary two-thirds in the House; in the Senate, until a vote is taken the winds are unknown.
Will there be a reason to celebrate in Michigan come the end of 2019? Or will it just be a repeat of the past, with the bills either coming up short or another strike from a governor’s veto pen? It bears watching to see what may occur in Michigan over the next couple of months.