After failing to gather enough votes for passage earlier this week, a Michigan lawmaker has reset his sights regarding his bill for online gaming. That reset goal? Right before the Michigan legislative body takes its summer break from Ann Arbor in June.
Michigan Representative Brandt Iden introduced his bill, called House Bill 4926, late in the legislative session in September 2017, with it moving rapidly to the Michigan House Committee on Regulatory Reform. That gave many in the online gaming industry, not to mention Iden and his co-sponsors Rep. Kathy Crawford, Robert Kosowski and Klint Kesto, hopes that Michigan would become the next state to pass online gaming regulations.
Unfortunately for HB 4926, it has become bogged down in the minutiae of legislation and its scheduling process. After it didn’t pass at the end of the 2017 session, the bill stayed on the agenda but in a state of limbo. Once the calendar clicked to 2018, Iden began his drive again for passage of his pet project. That drive, however, brought questions about the subject from his fellow legislators. Iden believes that he will be able to correct issues that his fellow legislators may have to be able to bring it for a vote by June 21.
There could be another reason for the delay in the passage of the bill. Currently in the U. S. Supreme Court, New Jersey v. NCAA, et. al. is reaching its end, with a decision from the SCOTUS expected any day now. That case is a direct challenge to the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992. That law made sports betting illegal in all but a handful of states, but New Jersey’s challenge is looking to overturn the law as unconstitutional. If PASPA is overturned, then states such as Michigan could put language in any online gaming legislation to allow for sports betting in their states.
Another major problem facing Iden and his co-sponsors is one that has plagued another major state when it comes to the question of online gaming. The commercial casino outlets in the Wolverine State – the MGM Grand Detroit and the Motor City Casino in Detroit especially – and the various Indian tribes in the state are trying to ensure that they are players in any potential online gaming industry. The battle between these entities has bogged down the discussion of online gaming in the state, not just the legislature.
This is the same situation that has shown up in the state of California for the past decade. Although there has been plenty of support in the legislature for passing online poker regulations, the inability of the major gaming players in the state have completely halted any action. The powerful Indian casinos in the Golden State, the equally strong poker rooms and the horse racing tracks of the state all want a piece of the action and, for more than a decade, they have been unable to come to any decision on the issue.
Like California, Michigan would be a strong state to get in the casino gaming mix in the States of America. As the tenth largest state in the Union with nearly 10 million residents, Michigan is comparable to New Jersey as far as population. If the numbers for New Jersey were to be extrapolated towards Michigan, the revenues would be welcome by the Michigan Statehouse.
In 2016, New Jersey posted revenues of over $196 million from the five operations that make up its online poker industry. In 2017, those same outlets smashed the 2016 record, breaking the $200 million for the first time in earning over $245 million in revenues. All totaled since the start of the online gaming industry in New Jersey in 2013, $791,975,753 in revenues have been raised for the state, with $138,766,254 in taxes for the state.
If the Michigan House can get the bill through, then the Senate would have to step up. There is significant support for online gaming regulation from Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof and a potential new bill waiting for introduction, important in that it would provide partnership legislation for the HB 4926. Then would come a significant step: presenting the bill to a skeptical Governor Rick Snyder, who hasn’t been the biggest supporter of gaming expansion in the state.