Michigan’s online gaming bill finds resistance at the highest level
Governor Whitmer won’t approve an online gaming bill unless certain changes are made
Michigan Representative Brandt Iden has spent the past several years fighting to have online gambling and poker brought to the state. Last year, his hard work and dedication paid off when a bill made its way successfully through the House and Senate. However, he wasn’t able to pat himself on the back for too long, as then-Governor Rick Snyder vetoed the bill as he was walking out the door. If Iden is going to see things change this year, he will have to appease new governor Gretchen Whitmer, and that is becoming increasingly more difficult.
Whitmer had been relatively silent on the subject of online gaming in the state, but that silence has now been broken. According to a representative from the Michigan State Budget Office, Bethany Wicksall, Whitmer wants changes to a bill currently being discussed in order to ensure more revenue for the state. Wicksall explains, “As the bill is written — given the tax rate, the distribution of the additional new online gaming revenue to the state, as well as the potential impact to the state lottery — even under an optimistic scenario, Treasury estimates that there would be a potential reduction in overall state revenue.”
That reduction may or may not be realistic. The feeling is that the Treasury could lose revenue because gamblers would switch from lotteries to iGaming. However, there is no indication that this would definitely occur. If it did, however, the online gaming bill only allocates 10% of revenue to the state’s coffers, less than what is paid from other forms of gambling.
In other states, such as New Jersey, there has not been a cannibalization of existing gambling options when Internet gambling was introduced. As FanDuel’s Andrew Winchell explains, “[Other forms] have also remained flat or grown, depending on the product, year over year. That revenue has to be coming from somewhere. Since it’s not displacing other casino spend or other lottery spend, as far as we’ve seen, we suspect that’s captured from the illegal market.”
However, the cards are on the table, as it were, in Michigan. Governor Whitmer has spoken and, as the ultimate legislative voice, what she wants will most likely prevail. If online gaming is to come to the state, it will almost certainly happen if changes are made to the current bill.