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A Michigan lawmaker is setting sports betting free from online casino gambling.
A new version of the Lawful Sports Betting Act circulated by Rep. Brandt Iden would untether the sports betting and iGaming bills.
Iden tells Legal Sports Report that the move is a precaution so that mobile wagering could happen if the governor vetoes the Lawful Internet Gaming Act.
“I didn’t want to put us in a situation that sports betting didn’t pass simply because internet gaming doesn’t pass,” Iden said. “This should insulate sports betting from a veto by not being tie-barred to iGaming.”
The Lawful Sports Betting Act, as finally introduced a month ago, held that:
“A sports betting licensee who also holds a license to conduct internet gaming may offer sports betting via the internet. A sports betting licensee that does not hold a license to conduct internet gaming must apply for a license as an internet gaming operator under the Lawful Internet Gaming Act, before offering sports betting on the internet.”
It stipulates that the Michigan Gaming Control Board may “permit sports betting operators licensed by the board to accept internet sports wagers under this act on any amateur or professional athletic event.”
At an earlier hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee, the administration expressed more issues with the iGaming bill than sports betting. For sports wagering, the only gaps were on the tax rate and licensing fees.
With Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, thus far, refusing to negotiate on those points, Iden does nothing to move closer to her asks in the updated bill. He keeps the tax rate at 8%, about half of the governor’s proposed 15%.
In fact, he cut the licensing fees in half to $100,000 for an initial license and $50,000 for renewal.
“I’m putting together the bill that I think is best for the industry,” Iden said. “If the governor wants to ask for more money, we can have that discussion. I’m disappointed she won’t negotiate on the tax issue, so we’re lowering the fees.”
The sponsor of the bills had hoped to convince Whitmer to include sports betting and iGaming in the Michigan budget. The Democratic governor approved the budget Tuesday after hitting the Republican-controlled legislature with 147 line-item vetoes totaling $947 million in funding.
Iden indicated that he would substitute this draft of the sports betting bill the next time it comes up in his Ways and Means Committee. He wants to move both the sports betting and iGaming bills through the committee by the end of the month. However, before he advances the bills, he wants to work with the governor to find the language she will support.
“I hope we can have a robust discussion with the governor now that the budget is done and focus on policy issues, this being a key one,” Iden said. “I don’t want to put bills in front of the governor that she doesn’t like. I want to put bills in front of her that she supports. Hopefully, now that the budget is over, we can work out our differences on the language.”
However, Republicans in the legislature and the Democratic governor aren’t leaving the budget process on good terms to negotiate other issues.
“After the vetoes I saw today, I think it’s great that she’s definitely not interested in money so maybe she’s fine with the 8% tax rate now,” Iden said. “Maybe something has changed.”
Iden asserted that the sports betting and iGaming bills have the votes to pass in the House and Senate, and he plans for them to pass both chambers together.
“I’m pushing the whole package,” Iden said. “My plan is to move the whole package. But if it gets to the point where we have to go without the governor’s support, we may have to go down a road where we can just get sports done.”
He won’t adjust industry fees in the bill without the governor’s input.
If the governor refuses to come to the table, he thinks he could get sports betting done without her.
“I have tremendous bipartisan support,” Iden said. “I will go as far as to say I think I probably have the votes for a veto override if she does veto the bill.”