Breaking: Michigan Governor Vetoes Online Casino, Poker Legislation

Michigan missed a crucial opportunity to legalize online poker, as the lame-duck governor on Friday vetoed the Unlawful Internet Gaming Act.
veto paper

Michigan has missed out on the opportunity to become the fifth state in the nation with legalized internet gambling.

On Friday, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who leaves office Jan. 1, vetoed the Lawful Internet Gaming Act, which was tie-barred to a fantasy sports bill and two other measures related to amending the penal code with regard to online gambling. It was a package deal, and they were among hundreds of bills Snyder had to review and sign before the calendar flipped to 2019.

State Rep. Brandt Iden, sponsor of the legislation, broke the news to Sports Handle’s Jill Dorson on Friday. Iden is also a Republican.

Long road to the governor’s desk

The legislation was introduced on Sept. 12, 2017 by Iden. It was referred to the Committee on Regulatory Reform that same day.
The bill didn’t have its second reading in the Michigan House of Representatives until June 12, 2018.  It was amended and then immediately received a third reading. It passed the House with a 68-40 vote on June 12.
On Sept. 5, 2018, the legislation was referred to the Senate Committee on Government Relations. Online gambling efforts in Michigan had stalled in the Senate in past years.
Everything was quiet until the week of Dec. 20, when the legislative session was winding to a close. The legislation, which was again amended, was discharged by the Senate committee and received a full Senate vote late in the evening on Dec. 20. The vote was 33 yays, and five nays.
The following day, the bill returned to the House, where lawmakers there signed off on the new version of the legislation with a vote of 71-35. The legislation gained support in that chamber since the June vote.
The last-minute action on the bill, which was nowhere near a certainty, occurred in what is widely considered to be one of the busiest lame-duck sessions in Michigan history. Michigan is currently home to contentious partisan politics, so the fact that the legislation received support from both parties was a welcomed sight.
The legislation was presented to the governor on Dec. 27, giving him just four days to sign. He had more than 300 other bills to review.

Historic nature of the legislation

The Michigan Lawful Internet Gaming Act would have been the first legislation of its kind to incorporate both commercial and tribal casino interests for a licensing and regulatory structure for internet betting. Under the bill, both parties would have sought licensure from Michigan gaming regulators.
There was also a 15-month window before any operator could launch games, which was designed to put the tribes and the Detroit casino operators on equal footing.
Iden called his bill “model legislation for other states.”

Sports betting was in the pipeline

The Lawful Internet Gaming Act would have set the stage for a full-fledged sports betting bill in early 2019.
Iden told Mi Bets in an interview last week that the bipartisan support for his legislation, coupled with the incoming governor’s support for legalizing sports betting, made Michigan a favorite to pass comprehensive sports betting legislation. In fact, the Lawful Internet Gaming Act came with the assurance to stakeholders that sports betting would be tackled next.
Iden isn’t giving up, telling SportsHandle that he will try again next year.

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