Standoff Continues Over Future of Michigan Online Gaming and Poker

After once getting to the point where all it needed was one person’s signature, the state of online gaming and poker in Michigan has plummeted precipitously. Now, there is a definitive standoff between the representatives pushing for the Wolverine State to adopt regulations for the industry and the state’s new Governor over whether or not it will ever happen.

All About the Benjamins – and Who Gets

After the Michigan General Assembly took
their seats in January of this year, State Representative Brandt Iden was of
the belief that he would have little preventing him from passage of online
gaming regulations. After being cruelly rebuked at the end of 2018 (more on
this in a moment), Ident put some tweaks on his legislation and reintroduced it
into the General Assembly in 2019. Along with his new running mate in State
Senator Curtis Hertel (his previous partner on legislation, Mike Kowall, did
not run for reelection), the duo introduced legislation into the House of
Representatives and the Senate called the Lawful Internet Gaming Act of 2019.

But there was one new piece of the puzzle
that the two men hadn’t counted on – newly elected Democratic Governor Gretchen
Whitmer. Whitmer went public with her concerns regarding online gaming and
poker – most importantly that the state’s lottery would see its revenues cut
because of online gaming – and sent the appropriate attack dogs out from her
administration to thwart Iden and Hertel’s efforts. Despite Iden jiggering some
of the taxation rates and other licensing guidelines, it isn’t enough for
Whitmer, who has stated that, under its current writing, the bills presented by
Iden and Hertel would not be good enough “for the state of Michigan” and would
be vetoed by Whitmer.

State Officials Carrying Same Tune from
Previous Administration

If this sounds familiar, it is because it

Iden and Kowall pushed hard during the 2018
legislative session to get their bills for online gaming and poker approved by
the General Assembly. After nearly a year of tough negotiations, the passage of
the bills through the House and Senate came about during the “lame duck”
session following the 2018 midterm elections. Iden and Kowall had been in discussions
with representatives in the previous administration of former Governor Rick
Snyder and were confident that his signature was all that stood between them
and Michigan becoming the fourth state to offer online gaming and poker for its
citizens (Pennsylvania, at this time, hadn’t even begun licensing).

That unfortunately didn’t come to pass. Snyder stalled for nearly the entirety of his 10-day period allowed by law for his signature before vetoing the bill, along with nearly 100 other bills passed by the legislature at the close of 2018. The issue with the veto was, since it was done so late in the legislative year, the Michigan General Assembly had no recourse (overriding the veto) to counter Snyder’s action. Snyder himself was never man enough to step up and indicate why he had vetoed the legislation – much like Whitmer – letting his lackeys in the administration state he wasn’t happy with the taxation revenues and concerned about how the new industry would impact the state’s “brick and mortar” gaming.

The Future? Not Very Bright…

Although it is often said that there is always room for negotiations in politics, this apparently doesn’t apply to Michigan. According to Online Poker Report, Iden has been unable to speak with Whitmer regarding the situation, even after further reworking his numbers to try to win her support. Furthermore, Michigan is not insulated from the partisanship that exists in the national and state political spectrums, with other issues arising that could thwart goodwill (re: bipartisan support) that Iden and Hertel have built up for their legislation. Additionally, with the upcoming 2020 General Elections on the horizon, there usually isn’t the cooperation between political parties that would be necessary for the gaming and poker legislation that Iden and Hertel have presented to be passed.

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