Legal online gambling in Michigan is in a state of turmoil. Last year, former governor Rick Snyder pushed legislators off course creating a sudden halt for legal online gambling. Now it seems that the current administration is even less likely to budge. With the topic entirely in the hands of current Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, no advancement can be claimed for certain.
- Gov. Gretchen Whitmer sees online gambling as a threat to existing online lottery revenue.
- Analysis from the Treasury Department puts forward massive tax demands.
- Online gambling proponent and bill sponsor, Rep. Brandt Iden, ready to sacrifice slots to get the rest.
Where Does Michigan Stand With Online Gambling?
Online gambling has long been a matter of discussion in a predominantly Republican Michigan. With a Democrat pulling the ropes this term, residents may be in for a surprise regarding the direction legislation will take in the end.
According to the bill sponsor, Rep. Brandt Iden, Governor Gretchen Whitmer is avoiding direct talks on the issue. His latest testimony for Online Poker Report from the National Council of Legislators from the Gaming States echoes his attitude:
I’d love to have a direct conversation with her about this. She refuses to engage with me directly. I’ve been talking to her staff. I welcome the opportunity, for the record, to sit down with the governor any time and talk about this issue
The Latest Developments
While the legality of online gambling was at a standstill for a while, new demands have been made on behalf of the Governor’s office. More specifically, an analysis from the Treasury Department has indicated that legal online slot games would practically cannibalize the existing lottery revenue due to the similarity of the games.
Thus, they propose eliminating online slots altogether from the gambling package, as well as a drastic increase in taxes, from 9.25% to 40%.
This pushed Iden to seek out a compromise, stepping forward and accepting the terms to a certain extent. Nevertheless, he didn’t miss the opportunity to voice his opinion on the matter. He pointed out to an apparent example of a legal lottery and online gambling industry, not only coexisting but also supporting each other in New Jersey.
When you propose something like a 40% tax rate, it just clearly shows that you have no knowledge of what’s happening in the industry. One of the things I continue to ask is for the administration to better educate themselves on the issue. The fact that the governor’s office is ignoring the experts and simply listening to Treasury, who is not an expert in this issue and has very little knowledge, is problematic.
Politics in the Way of Legal Online Gambling in Michigan
House Representative Brandt Iden is still rather reluctant to give up after doing so much work on the matter. So much so that he is even ready to meet the needs of the administration to a certain extent, such as the double-digit tax rate.
What Does Michigan’s Governor Have to Say?
All the while, Governor Gretchen holds strongly to her own opinion on the matter:
I’ve said very clearly, over and over again, that protecting the School Aid Fund, ensuring that 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.
The lottery revenue for the last fiscal year reached $941.3 million. All the funds went straight to the respective education fund. Such numbers are not to be disregarded, and certainly, aren’t easily jeopardized for the sake of a new industry.
New Jersey As A Model to Follow
Nevertheless, Iden’s stance largely calls upon New Jersey’s online gambling success. It’s direct proof that online lottery can coexist with online slots and other gambling products without impeding each others’ revenue. His persistence has attracted support from other legislators, including the minority vice chair in the Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Rebekah Warren, as well as Senator Curtis Hertel Jr.
There is even a possibility to redirect all revenue from this new industry to schools as well. With no discussion on the matter, and the legislative year running its course, other pending issues pulsating in the Governor’s itinerary. Rep. Brandt Iden can all but hope that he gets a chance to defend his case just in time for this Christmas Eve.