We are a half-decade into legalized online poker in the United States and just three measly states have launched their internet gaming industries with a fourth – Pennsylvania – close to joining. That’s it. With all the hubbub about sports betting in the last several months, it feels like online poker is on the back burner. But as it turns out, Michigan Rep. Brandt Iden is still working hard on getting online gambling going in his state and still thinks there is a chance it could happen before the end of the year.
Iden Working Hard
Iden has been pushing House Bill 4926 for a couple years now, having first introduced it in September 2017. It got through committee and he had wanted to see it pass through the House by Thanksgiving of that year, but unfortunately, that did not happen. On the bright side, the bill carried over to this year, so he didn’t have to start all over again.
2018 has been more successful. Iden got his bill through the House in June, but of course still needs to have the full Senate pass it and then get the Governor’s signature. All in about three weeks. This is important, as unlike last year, the bill will not roll over to 2019, as bills to not carry over to odd-numbered years in Michigan. Bills are effectively alive for two years, so if it goes no further, Iden will have to start over next year. It’s not like there would be no chance for online gambling, but having to restart the process from the very beginning is obviously much more difficult.
“We’re close to the finish line,” Rep. Iden told Online Poker Report, “and it’s a top priority of mine to see it come through to the end.”
It’s Up to the Senate
The thing with the bill already having passed the House is that Iden’s job is essentially over and now he has to wait to see what the Senate does with it. I would assume he is talking to various Michigan state Senators, but ultimately, he doesn’t have much to do with the process any more.
Iden told Online Poker Report that Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof is the key player, as he is the Chair of the Committee on Government Operations, which is where the bill is at the moment. The committee isn’t scheduled to meet, but Meekhof could make it happen if that’s what he desires.
“Being in front of his committee is a positive,” Iden told OPR. “Having the Senate majority leader oversee how these bills are handled is important for the legislation because getting his blessing is critical to get passage.”
Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall is also important, as he is a supporter of the bill in the Senate. Problem is, he is not returning to the Senate in 2019, so if the bill doesn’t advance this year, Iden will have to hope he finds another Republican champion in the Senate.
One of the challenges for the bill is that while it’s not absolutely necessary, it is generally wise to have the state’s stakeholders’ – namely the three commercial casinos and the Native American tribes – support. In late 2017, it appeared that the casinos were onboard, though as of the middle of this year, tribes were not completely in favor yet.