The stakes for sports betting are abnormally high in Michigan.
Ahead of a 2019 push for legalizing and regulating sports betting, the lawmaker spearheading the gambling expansion efforts in the Wolverine State has indicated an openness to considering the adoption of so-called integrity fees, which the gaming industry would fork over to the sports leagues. Those royalties briefly appeared on the table this week in the District of Columbia, but councilmembers there nixed the idea. No state with active sports betting, of which there are eight now, has the royalties.
Despite New Jersey emerging as a rival to Nevada’s sports betting hub in the wake of PASPA’s demise, Michigan State Rep. Brandt Iden, a Republican, believes Michigan’s upcoming sports betting legislation can serve as the template for other states that have yet to legalize. That’s music to the ears of the leagues, if they can get mandated royalties in the bill that’s signed by the governor.
“I want to make sure the bill we put forward in Michigan next year is model legislation, one that other states can look at and say it’s policy done right,” Iden told MI Bets. “I think that everyone has a seat at the table, and I want to continue working with everyone on this, not closing the door to anybody.”
Sports betting at Michigan’s doorstep
Ohio has recently emerged as one of the frontrunners for passing sports betting legislation next year. There’s a Penn National Gaming casino in Toledo. The casino operator recently was first to the sports betting market in Pennsylvania, so Hollywood Casino Toledo wouldn’t have any trouble flipping on the switch if the Ohio Legislature and the Ohio Gaming Commission gave it the green light. Indiana is also going to be home to sports betting discussions next year, but at this point the Buckeye State seems further ahead.
It’s worth noting that Penn National recently agreed to purchase the operations at one of Detroit’s three commercial casinos, which puts even more pressure on the Michigan Legislature in 2019.
Iden believes Michigan, which is also home to a robust tribal gaming industry, shouldn’t be concerned with sports betting timelines in neighboring states.
“It’s my goal to make sure sports betting is a priority,” Iden said. “Being first out of the gate was never my concern. If Indiana or Ohio can do it before we can, I understand that. I still want the product in Michigan to be good and sound policy. It’s not a race to the finish line for this. It’s making sure we get it right in 2019, so we can be a model for other states.”
The leagues would surely like to use integrity fees in Michigan as a model while advocating for them in other states. It appears they also recently struck out in Missouri.
Online gaming bill
Sports betting in Michigan is now an issue for 2019, but there’s still a small window for the Michigan Senate to pass Iden’s online casino legislation, HB 4926. The are session days up until the week before Christmas, and the legislation will go down to the wire. HB 4926, which passed the House in June, does have minimal language pertaining to online sports wagering, but the provisions can be seen as merely a placeholder for a real sports betting push.
The iGaming legislation cannot be carried over into 2019, so if it fails in yet another year, there’s a great chance sports betting and online casino will become a full-fledged, single measure.
“My focus at this point in time is making sure the legislation that I have outstanding gets signed by the governor,” Iden said. “If in 2019 we have to put a new game plan together as it relates to legislation, I’m willing to do that.”
Iden, chairman of the House Regulatory Reform Committee said he’s “all in” on his online gambling bill, but it might not be enough in the race against the legislative clock. Iden admitted that he has the support of “numerous stakeholders,” but not all of Michigan’s stakeholders.