Michigan Sports Betting Passes House, But A Second Bill Is Needed, Sponsor Says

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MIchigan sports betting House

Although the Lawful Internet Gaming Act passed by the Michigan House of Representatives on Tuesday references sports betting, bill author Rep. Brandt Iden tells Legal Sports Report that he will be introducing new legislation in the fall dealing specifically with sports wagering.

“A follow up is required and, now that we have the votes on this issue, I know I can put forth additional legislation and have people be supportive,” Iden said.

Why another bill is needed

Iden added minimal sports betting language to H 4926 earlier this year, and the bill passed by a 68-40 vote on the last day of the legislative session before a three-month summer recess.

While the bill would permit the Michigan Gaming Control Board to establish parameters for online sports gaming, Iden indicated that the legislature wants to set more specific requirements and guidelines for Michigan sports betting.

The new legislation would lay out legislative requirements for brick-and-mortar casinos interested in offering sports betting and address larger concerns such as setting up the tax rate. A draft of the bill is not yet ready.

Expect the language also to determine how Michigan will handle requests from the professional sports leagues to provide them a percentage of the handle as an integrity fee or royalty.

“I will have those discussions with league representatives this summer,” Iden said.

Tribes continue to oppose gambling expansion

Iden ran into resistance when trying to advance H 4926 early in May, receiving pushback from colleagues, many of whom have tribal casinos in their districts.

The tribes oppose language establishing that, in the unlikely event that federal law changes to prohibit them from offering online gambling that occurs outside their Indian reservation, commercial casinos in the state would be allowed to continue operating their internet gambling operations unaffected by the decision. This could also apply to sports betting, if wagers are taken online or through a mobile app.

Iden had indicated that he was looking into ways to soften the language to gain tribal neutrality, but he ended up getting the bill passed despite the tribal opposition and without making a change.

Iden noted that he thinks the tribes are 90 percent there on the bill, and that there will be time to work on the other ten percent in the fall when it is addressed in the Senate, but that he wasn’t going to let them derail the bill over one issue.

“We needed to continue this process to move forward and get the bill out of the House,” Iden said. “It shows the support is there, and I think the tribes understand that the votes will be there whether they get on board or not. We’re willing to work on the ten percent, but they can’t continue to be obstinate.”

Next steps in Michigan

The Michigan House and Senate will return from their summer breaks on Sept. 4 or 5. Iden should have a sports betting bill out in the House by the end of that month, while the internet gambling bill that includes sports wagering will be off to the Senate.

Iden indicated that he has worked closely with Sen. Mike Kowall, who was the first to introduce the Lawful Internet Gaming Act in March of last year.

That the Senate bill went absolutely nowhere before Iden came in to take the reins and get it moving in the House seems to indicate that the Senate will be the tougher chamber.

But it can only help for Senate lawmakers to see that there is support for the issue in the House. A 68-40 vote certainly isn’t overwhelming support, but it was impressive given opposition from the tribes.

“We got bipartisan support, and I think that sends a strong message to the Senate,” Iden said. “Sen. Kowall and I continue to work hand and hand on this. He was very helpful in moving this forward in the House, and I will be just as helpful in the Senate. If we have to work on the language, we will do it together and get this to the governor’s desk.”