Michigan Sports Betting Chances Appear Slim In Budget Discussion

Posted on September 19, 2019
Posted By on September 19, 2019

Sports betting legislation advanced through the Michigan House Regulatory Reform Committee on Tuesday, but that’s not an indication it’s on the move.

Rep. Brandt Iden tells Legal Sports Report that the chances of getting language to legalize Michigan sports betting or iGaming in the Michigan budget are slim. Prospects for the rest of the session aren’t looking so great either.

The Sports Betting Act, H 4916, joins the online gambling bill in Iden’s House Ways and Means Committee. The iGaming legislation has stalled for months, facing opposition from the administration.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer continues not to engage with him on the topics, according to Iden.

“The governor’s office is just not communicating about this now,” Iden said. “The governor is not communicating about the budget either at this point in time. The governor’s office is just not communicating, and that’s been part of the issue from Day One.”

MI sports betting isn’t the only wedge

Whitmer, a Democrat, is embroiled in a budget standoff with the Republican-controlled legislature.

In fact, Whitmer removed herself from those discussions and asked the legislature just to send her their budget proposal. They are even bickering about when the legislature gets her that proposal. It’s looking like next week.

“She walked away from the negotiation, so that makes it difficult to get her thoughts on any potential for sports betting or iGaming if she’s not at the table,” Iden said. “I’m trying to ensure that we look at all possible angles and options to get this done.

“The budget makes the most sense to me because this is new revenue, but it’s difficult without the administration there to get their thoughts on how they want this structured.”

Threat of government shutdown looming

If the legislature and governor can’t agree on terms for a budget by Oct. 1, there will be a government shutdown in Lansing.

Showing that it’s serious, the state sent layoff notices to 48,000 employees.

Iden said that Whitmer eventually will have to come to the table to avoid a government shutdown. When that happens, he hopes to talk about Michigan sports betting and iGaming.

“We are working hard to avoid a government shutdown,” Iden said. “That never goes well for anybody. It’s not what we want. It’s crazy to me that the governor’s team continues not to be interested in the revenue this brings in when the new administration is looking for revenue. They’re looking at raising taxes but not interested in iGaming revenue.”

They really might be that far apart

There was speculation that Whitmer could be willing to allow Michigan sports betting in the budget. It makes sense, though her asks don’t seem in line with the proposal.

Iden’s proposed 8% tax rate is about half of the 15% asked for by the governor. The $200,000 initial licensing fee is one-fifth of the $1 million the governor wants from the commercial casinos and largest tribal casinos.

The gap for iGaming is much vaster, with the governor wanting an untenable tax rate and the removal of online slots.

Iden said he’s willing to have discussions on raising the MI sports betting tax rate if the governor engages with him on the topic. With the governor absent from budget talks, he expects that conversation will have to wait for the fall.

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Matthew Kredell

Matthew started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News, where he covered the NFL, Kobe-Shaq three-peat, Pete Carroll’s USC football teams, USC basketball, pro tennis, Kings hockey and fulfilled his childhood dream of sitting in the Dodgers’ dugout. His reporting on efforts to legalize sports betting began in 2010, when Playboy Magazine flew him to Prague to hang out with Calvin Ayre and show how the NFL was pushing US money overseas by fighting expansion of regulated sports betting across the country. A USC journalism alum, Matt also has written on a variety of topics for Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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