Michigan’s Online Gambling Bill Still Stuck

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A cat stuck in a box.
  • Michigan gambling bill at a stand still
  • Rep. Ben Iden seeks dialogue with Gov. Whitmer
  • Governor’s office wants to put too steep a tax on online gambling

Ben Iden is facing off Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer in an attempt to convince the governor to sign a MI online gambling bill into law.

Michigan’s Online Gambling Bill in a Limbo

Online gambling in Michigan is not very likely to happen soon, the result of opposition from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and a review issued by the Treasury Department at Whitmer’s office, which outlined a future in which iGaming slots do not exist and taxes on gambling go up.

This has made it difficult for Rep. Brandt Iden, the main proponent of the activity in MI, to secure a successful deal for the state. Rep. Iden has expressed concerns that Gov. Whitmer has been avoiding a discussion with him, making the task even more difficult.

Time to Compromise: Taxes Can Go Up, Says Iden

So far as negotiating a good deal for MI goes, Iden is prepared to make concessions and work along with any tax suggestion that Whitmer’s office may come up with. However, establishing the specific preferences of the governor has been difficult. The first inroad with the governor’s office was in May when at a Ways and Means Committee, it became clear that Whitmer wouldn’t support an online MI gambling bill.

After some deliberation, the governor’s office finally said that it would be open to a 40% tax and a licensing fee $1 million – nearly enough to put any enterprise out of business. Iden remonstrated against the 40% tax, describing it as frivolous and the result of an uninformed decision.

Iden remains open to contributing more to the School Aid Fund with the revenue generated through gambling, but the legal framework enabling such activities shouldn’t try and put them out of business in the first place. Here is what Whitmer had to say defending the proposed taxation:

I know that there’s been some robust debates, and I’ve said very clearly, over and over again, that protecting the School Aid Fund and ensuring we get every dollar back into the education of our kids is my top priority. So I’m going to have a hard time supporting anything that doesn’t protect that goal.”

Iden has responded by arguing that the governor’s office has largely ignored the opinions of experts, choosing to trust Treasury instead. However, Treasury hasn’t assessed the capabilities and reach of the industry, Iden believes.

Even though Michigan’s government seems a little short-sighted about problem gambling, the state is already running a comprehensive gambling addiction aid program.

Dashing the 2019 Hopes for Online Gambling

Michigan was on the cusp of becoming the latest state to have legalized online gambling in December, 2018, when Gov. Rick Snyder struck the bill down, arguing that it wasn’t what the state needed nor was it something he had the time to examine in great detail.

Iden’s hopes were dashed amid a general excitement that Michigan will step into 2019 with an official permission to introduce online gambling, and even poker. Yet, hopes to see the online gambling industry take off even in 2019 are dim.

The reason is simple as Whitmer is caught with securing public funding and infrastructure projects. Her opposition is counter-productive, though, as Iden’s bill managed to clear both Houses in 2018, paving the way for a bilateral legislation to be dismissed in the end. Then, the bill made it through legislative scrutiny again in March, 2019.

Iden was methodical in his approach to gambling-averse former governor Snyder by reaching out to Rep. Rebekah Warren and Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. who both agreed to assist Iden in his attempt to placate the big man. Yet, Snyder was adamant, and already out of the door, Whitmer was Michigan’s last hope to see a gambling bill passed.

With all of this in mind, Michigan still needs to address the fact that many of its residents are still turning to offshore gambling options. Iden’s bill is a solution, but what does Whitmer has that is better?

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