HOUSE VOTE COULD COME THIS WEEK
Legal Sports Report

Michigan Sports Betting Bills Pass House Without Governor’s Support

Michigan sports betting

The Michigan House of Representatives passed sports betting legislation Wednesday, a day after it was amended and advanced through committee.

The Lawful Sports Betting Act passed by a vote of 63-45, a margin that indicated it lacked support from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Rep. Rebekah Warren, who bill sponsor Rep. Brandt Iden earlier told Legal Sports Report was close to the governor, spoke out against the bill on the House floor, as she did in committee.

The package of gambling bills, including internet gaming, move on to the Senate. That chamber has to the end of the year to send them to the governor’s desk, where Iden hopes they will avoid the fate of his iGaming bill vetoed by another governor last year.

Legislature moving bills despite governor’s opposition

After 10 months of negotiations, all stakeholders seem to be on board with the Michigan sports betting legislation — except perhaps the one that matters most.

Whitmer previously endorsed a report asking for a 15% tax rate on sports betting with initial licensing fees up to $1 million.

The Michigan State Budget Office and two public education associations in the state submitted cards in opposition to the bills prior to the House Ways and Means Committee vote Tuesday, where the legislation passed 10-1.

The nay vote came from Warren, the committee’s minority vice chair, a supporter of the issue in general who served as a conduit between the committee and administration.

Warren explained:

“We’re getting ever so much closer to having a package of bills that meet all of those objectives: can get the majority vote that’s needed, the super majority vote when it’s needed and get the administration to sign off with Gov. Whitmer’s signature. Unfortunately, there are a couple of pieces of this package that are not quite ready yet. … Please hear me saying the goal is to get to ‘yes,’ we are just not ‘yes’ today.”

The three other Democrats in the committee all voted for the bills.

New Iden substitute favors league request

Iden substituted new language for H 4916 to raise the tax rate and codify an official league data mandate before committee passage.

As reported previously by LSR, the new draft increased the tax rate to 8.75% (a total of 12% for commercial casinos, including another 3.25% to Detroit). It mandated the use of official league data if offered on “commercially reasonable terms.”

It also adds language specific to mobile wagering to allow the bill to stand on its own in case it makes it to the finish line, and the iGaming legislation does not.

Support for Michigan sports betting bill

Iden worked to create a bill that the commercial casinos, Indian tribes and sports teams of Michigan all could get behind.

Before calling a committee vote, Iden rattled off a long list of cards submitted in support of the legislation: DraftKings, FanDuel, MGM, iDEA Growth, Lake Superior Chippewa, Huron Band of Potawatomi, Greektown Casino, Motor City Casino, NBA, MLB, PGA Tour and the Detroit Pistons.

“This substitute, really, I think helps to bring all the stakeholders that participated in the conversation on board,” Iden said. “We had a lot of in-depth discussion as it related to the rules and regulations and how sports betting was going to be outlined in the state. We obviously know other states are ahead of us as it related to this issue. Indiana and Illinois have already moved forward. Ohio is quickly on our heels.”

Governor absent in MI sports betting talks

Iden and majority vice chair Rep. Jim Lilly expressed frustration that Whitmer and her administration have not engaged with the committee on sports betting in Michigan in recent months.

Lilly noted that the substitute language constituted an agreement among the stakeholders at the table asking to be part of the conversation.

Iden and the committee tried to involve everyone in crafting the language, but Whitmer is missing from that discussion.

“As much as it pains me to say, the governor’s office has not put in that time up to this point,” Lilly said. “While I think we’re still interested in finding a landing spot, you have to be willing to be part of the conversation if you want to be part of the end outcome.”

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 online sportsbook pioneer 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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