Rep. Iden: Michigan Online Gambling Bill ‘Close To The Finish Line’

Michigan online gambling billMichigan online gambling bill

With three months and nine sessions left at the Michigan legislative session, Rep. Brandt Iden remains hopeful that his online gaming bill will reach the governor’s desk this year.

“We’re near the end line,” Iden told OPR,”and it is a top priority of mine to see it come through to the end.”

H 4926, the Lawful online Gaming Act, passed through the state’s House of Representatives at June, which means Iden has already done his job. No matter what hopes he has for the bill; the steps are for the most part from his hands.

All eyes on the Michigan Senate

The fate of the online gaming bill lies in the state Senate, where the situation is complex.

Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall is in his last weeks in office, unable to run for re-election under term limits. Kowall did compete as a candidate for the US House but lost in the primary.

“Sen. Kowall remains floor leader in the Senate for the remainder of the lame duck,” Iden said. “Even though he is not coming back to the legislature due to term limits, he is still quite encouraged in the Senate. He’s still an advocate for the bill, and I will use him to get it to the finish line.”

Before this session ends if the bill does not pass, it might not only lose its winner but drop off the books completely. Bills do not carry over to odd years in Michigan.

“There is urgency since Sen. Kowall is leaving,” Iden said,”and because all invoices die and need to be reintroduced, beginning the process over.”

Sen. Meekhof in the chair of dealer

Iden indicated that whether his Michigan bill keeps moving hinges on Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof.

The bill currently sits in the Senate Committee on Government Operations, which is not scheduled to meet during the lame duck. That doesn’t appear to bode well for its prospects, obviously. However, Meekhof is chair of this committee and can call a meeting at any time if he decides to move the bill.

“Being in front of the committee is a positive,” Iden said. “Having the Senate majority leader manage how these invoices are handled is very important to the legislation because getting his blessing is critical to find passage.”

Iden said he does not know Meekhof’s intent with the bill, but he was involved in fulfilling with local gaming stakeholders earlier this year to work on internet gambling.

The Michigan legislative session ends Dec. 20.

Sports betting bill postponed

H 4926 would also permit the Michigan Gaming Control Board to set parameters for online sports betting.

But, Iden indicated back in June that the next bill focusing especially on sports betting was needed to place the requirements for brick-and-mortar casinos interested in supplying sports betting. There are also some financial and technical details including the tax rate.

Iden was planning to introduce that bill in the autumn, but he now says it will be pushed into 2019 due to the midterm elections. The incumbent Republican barely edged his Democratic challenger to win a third term.

Integrity fee under consideration, but …

Since he spoke at the US Sports Betting Policy Summit a few weeks ago, much has been made about Iden’s sign that Michigan would be the first state to approve an ethics fee, providing sports leagues a percentage the action.

But, Iden told OPR that he hasn’t yet made any determination. He’s simply open to considering it:

“I did originally start from a position that there was no place for ethics fees in my head, but since then I’ve had conversations with the leagues and I do feel there is reason to keep discussion on the issue. That doesn’t mean there is any determination of what a fee would be. My comment is specific to that I have not closed the door on ethics fees. I’m open to discussing it.”

No state’s sports betting law includes such a fee.

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