Brandt Iden Pushes Passage of Michigan Online Gambling Bill

Michigan Online Gambling Bill

Brandt Iden has championed House Bill 4926 for the past couple of years.

The Mighigan State Legislature might send an online gambling bill to deck of Gov. Rick Snyder (R) by the end of December. H 4926 is similar to previous proposals by Rep. Brandt Iden, a longtime supporter of the Michigan gambling industry.

At the recent US Sports Betting Policy Summit, Brandt Iden said that his online gambling bill could reach Gov. Snyder’s office before the end of the lame-duck session of the Michigan legislature.

A new legislature and governor were elected during the November 2018 midterm elections, so this is the last chance for this set of lawmakers to pass online gambling legislation.

Rep. Iden said he has been working with colleagues in the Michigan Senate to pass a gambling bill, House Bill 4926 (H 4926). Known as the Lawful Internet Gaming Act, the bill would authorize the Michigan Gaming Control Board to create regulations for online sports betting.

Michigan Division of Internet Gaming

Within the Gaming Control Board, a Michigan Division of Internet Gaming would be created. The Division of Internet Gaming would oversee all online casino and poker site gaming in the state. The window to pass such regulations is small, but Brandt Iden believes the time and will is there to make it happen. The legislature will be in session 3 more days in November and 9 days in December.

If House Bill 4926 fails to pass muster, then Brandt Iden will have to start over at the committee level with a new bill. Michigan’s Constitution requires bills that do not move forward in odd-number years to begin the legislative process over (because a new legislature takes over the following year).

H 4926 Provisions

Alongside H49326, Brandt Iden said he plans to introduce a sports betting legalization bill as a companion piece. At the Sports Betting Policy Summit, Iden suggested that he would use the New Mexico model to introduce sports betting to the Michigan legislature.

Michigan has to balance the tribal gambling interests (13 casinos) alongside the 3 commercial casinos in the state. Both of those sectors of the gaming industry have to be balanced with the Michigan State Lottery. With that in mind, lawmakers have to be inventive to deal with such complicated politics.

In New Mexico, the legislature compact amendments which would allow tribal casinos to launch land-based sportsbooks. The measure helped New Mexico quickly jump-start sports betting — a problem which has perplexed Michigan lawmakers for some time on the issues of online gambling or sports betting.

How Tribal Gaming Authorization Works

Because tribal casinos are based on sovereignty issues, it is much more complicated to change the laws to allow tribal authorities to have sports betting or online gambling. If not done right, the tribes could give up their sovereignty, which would put their land-based gaming interests at risk.

To forestall such a consequence, changing the original gaming compact would preserve sovereignty and avoid many months (or years) of negotiation on new forms of gambling under the gaming compact.

Whether that method would preserve full rights for commercial casinos like Greektown Casino or MGM Detroit is not known. Given MGM Resorts and Penn National Gaming’s nationwide scope and resources, one would expect the commercial casinos would launch successful lobbying campaigns based on their interests.

Could Online Gambling Pass in Lame-Duck Session?

Nothing is certain. Rep. Brandt Iden’s House Bill 4926 has met defeat after defeat over the past two years. Whether the lame-duck legislature is more likely to pass gaming bills it has turned down before, or whether Michigan’s 100th State Legislature will provide a better opportunity for Brandt Iden.

In the 99th State Legislature, Republicans held a 27-11 advantage in the State Senate and a 63-47 advantage in the State House of Representatives. After more Michigan voters voted for Democrats than Republicans in 2018, the advantages shrank to 22-16 in the State Senate and 58-52 for the Republicans in the House of Representatives.

State Legislature Closer to Even Split

That means fewer lawmakers will vote according to social conservative points of view — politicians who often oppose gambling laws. Of course, it also means the new legislature might be less business-friendly than the previous set of Michigan lawmakers, so a pro-business online gambling and sports betting bill might not be as popular.

With a lame-duck session at work, lawmakers who are leaving office in a few more weeks might be more willing to vote their conscience. Brandt Iden is taking the stance that such lawmakers might be more likely to vote through a bill they will not have to justify in their next election.