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Jonathan ZaunMarch 15, 2019
March 15, 2019

Michigan iGaming: Bill Back After Veto

Michigan iGaming enthusiasts had their hopes for legalization dashed at the last minute to end 2018, when outgoing Governor Rick Snyder used his veto powers to kill a bill previously passed by lawmakers.

But state representative Brandt Iden (R-61), who has championed Michigan iGaming regulation for the last four years, is back at it with House Bill 4311.

Also known as the 2019 Lawful Internet Gaming Act, HB-4311 was introduced on March 7 and referred to the House Committee on Regulatory Reform.

Asked about the three-month delay between last year’s veto and submitting this year’s bill, Iden told Online Poker Report that his state’s year-long legislative session afforded time to bring freshman lawmakers into the fold:

“We’ve got time in Michigan. Unlike many state legislatures that are in the final days before wrapping up for the year, we’re just getting started.”

The issue has been thoroughly vetted, and people have an interest in a bill they already voted for.

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.”

Iden isn’t alone in his efforts to bring regulated online poker and casino games to Michigan.

State senator Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-23) also introduced Senate Bill 186 – a companion bill to HB-4311 which is dubbed as “a bill to create the lawful gaming act” – on the same day.

Michigan iGaming: New Governor Believed to be On Board

Last year, Iden collaborated closely with state senator Mike Kowall (R-15) to successfully guide his Michigan iGaming package through both chambers of the legislature.

The 2018 Lawful Internet Gaming Act was passed via a 71 to 35 vote in the House and a 33 to 5 margin in the Senate

Weeks after Snyder vetoed the bill – a move the former Governor justified by pointing to potential revenue losses for the state’s online lottery – Kowall told Online Poker Report that newly elected Governor Gretchen Whitmer should be more agreeable to regulated iGaming:

“I assume the House sponsor is going to reintroduce it with the new governor.

And knowing [Gov. Whitmer] the way I do, I think it stands a fair chance.

She’s more inclined to sign bills like that.”

Kowall and Whitmer served together within the state Senate from 2011 to 2015 and remain close friends today. Whitmer has yet to crystalize her stance on poker and casino games played over the internet, but she did go on record in support of legalized sports betting throughout Michigan following last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision to strike down a federal ban on the industry.

Committee Hearing Signals Widespread Support for Current Bills

On Tuesday, during a hearing held by the House Regulatory Reform Committee to discuss gaming bills, the three commercial casinos in Detroit – MGM Grand, MotorCity Casino Hotel, and Greektown Casino – came out in favor of HB-4311.

This was viewed as a positive development given how the state’s brick and mortar casino operators vacillated on Michigan iGaming during last year’s debates.

Iden served as chairman of the committee last year, a position which has since been assumed by state representative Michael Webber (R-45). As a co-sponsor of last year’s bill, Webber is seen as a staunch ally of Iden when it comes to pushing iGaming over the finish line.

John Pappas – who previously served as executive director of the Poker Player’s Alliance online poker lobby group – testified on behalf of GeoComply.

Pappas demonstrated the efficacy of geolocation technology – which is used to “ring-fence” intrastate iGaming industries – by showing lawmakers how the service currently works to protect New Jersey’s thriving industry.

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