Michigan’s online gambling plans are starting to form
Issues remain, but things are still moving forward
Michigan lawmakers have been discussing online gaming for several months and there is still no definitive picture on what the conclusion will be. About the only thing that’s clear is that Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who stayed silent on the subject since the beginning of her tenure, is not going to support any gambling bill that doesn’t make certain concessions for how the tax revenue is spent.
Representative Brandt Iden, who sponsored the online gambling legislation, concedes that several changes needed to be made in order to appease Michigan’s administration. However, he adds that the feedback from the governor’s office at least shows that there is interest in the bill. He explains, “The positive out of this is that the governor’s office is engaging on the issue. The previous governor gave no indication that he wouldn’t sign the bill. I think some of these issues could have potentially been addressed last time around if the governor engaged. The governor has a team of folks working on it, and I think we can come to a landing spot.”
The changes made by Iden include a higher tax rate for online gambling, as well as a larger percentage allocated to the state’s School Aid Fund.
Those changes may help, but there are still other concerns that have to be addressed. The state’s chief deputy treasurer Jeff Guilfoyle, believes that online gaming could actually cost the state as much as $35.5 million since it would take away from casinos and the online lottery, despite the fact that there is no way to measure any such loss.
Iden asserts, “Folks from treasury admitted that they didn’t consider New Jersey in estimates because they believe that state is different than Michigan,” Iden said.
“That’s a flawed argument in my opinion. The lottery openly admits that they use their online presence to drive people to brick-and-mortar operations. The same thing is happening with online gaming in New Jersey. If we can drive more people into the casinos with iGaming, that will increase revenue and be more money for the state as well,” adding that online gamblers and lottery players have completely different profiles. He adds, “I think their metrics are flawed. But I also understand it’s important that I put a piece of legislation in front of them that they can bring to the governor and be supportive — or at least neutral on.”
June 27 is the last day of the legislative session in Michigan. If Iden wants to have serious movement on his bill this year, it’s time to put some urgency behind the legislation.