Lawmakers in the Wolverine State did the heavy lifting last year, passing an online poker and casino gaming bill through both houses of the Legislature. Unfortunately, outgoing Governor Rick Snyder subsequently exercised his veto powers to kill the Michigan iGaming bill off at the last minute.
Nevertheless, state representative Brandt Iden (R-61) is determined to try once again. Iden had sponsored iGaming legislation in four straight sessions before that surprise veto. In addition, Iden previously partnered with his Republican colleague state senator Mike Kowall (R-15) on the Lawful Internet Gaming Act. However, Kowall has since reached his lawful term limit and left office. That left Iden to seek a new partner in the state Senate.
Iden has since reached across the aisle to align with state senator Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-23) and introduce companion bills in both chambers.
Hertel Jr. – the son of influential former lawmaker Curtis Hertel Sr., who served in the House for 18 years – appears to be the perfect pick for an iGaming ally. While serving as Speaker of the House, his father worked to pass brick and mortar casino legislation that brought three gaming establishments to the Detroit area in 1997.
And as Iden told Online Poker Report last week, the younger Hertel played a pivotal role in bringing last year’s iGaming bill to the Governor’s desk:
“He helped last time with the conversations with the city of Detroit and was supportive as we got into the final days of the lame duck and tried to get it past the finish line. His father is a former member of the legislature who helped put casinos in Detroit 20 years ago. It’s great to have this supportive senator on this, and we’ll work together to get it on the governor’s desk.”
Senate sponsor Mike Kowall ran into issues with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan that threatened to derail the effort in the final days of the session. The outgoing senator then called on Hertel Jr. to provide an assist.
Duggan’s concerns were based on a perceived loss in revenue for the Motor City’s land-based casinos. After Iden consulted with the Detroit-raised Hertel Jr., however, the latter helped to negotiate a comprise based on adding a 1.25 percent iGaming revenue tax diverted to local neighborhood programs.
Speaking to Online Poker Report, the younger Hertel pointed to Detroit’s bankruptcy filing from 2013 as justification for sending additional tax revenue to the city:
“I think Detroit has to succeed for Michigan to succeed, and there were concerns how iGaming would affect the brick-and-mortar casinos and their funding structure to the city. When you’re a city that just came out of bankruptcy, you can’t have risk to your bottom line. I understood that and helped work with the city on coming up with what I think was a pretty fair split of revenues to make sure they are protected.”
In his interview with Online Poker Report, Hertel Jr. set June as a target date for sending the latest Michigan iGaming bill to the desk of newly installed Governor Gretchen Whitmer:
“I would be very surprised if it didn’t get passed by both chambers this year. I would be shocked. The legislation is not that different than what passed last year, and it’s not overly partisan.”
Asked about the shift between an outgoing Republican administration overseen by Snyder and the Democratic administration of Whitmer, Hertel Jr. was optimistic that the veto pen wouldn’t be wielded a second time on a Michigan iGaming bill:
“We’ve had a long-standing relationship and I feel pretty good about where she will come down on this issue. I’ve talked to her public policy people and haven’t gotten any concerns.”