Michigan Governor Vetoes Online Gambling Bill

Legislation, US

Michigan lawmakers approved online poker and gambling regulation that required only the governor’s signature, but Gov. Rick Snyder used his veto power instead.

It was a rather stunning end to 2018 for online poker supporters within the US who held hopes that additional states would join Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania in approving i-gaming legislation this year. Those hopes died when Gov. Snyder put the kibosh on the bill, citing the need for more information and research as to the revenue potential that online gambling might provide.

In a letter (PDF) sent to the Michigan Senate and House of Representatives, Gov. Snyder explained his reasoning behind the veto. He made sure to give kudos to the lawmakers and stakeholders who worked hard in achieving common ground, but had this to say about dismissing the Lawful Internet Gaming Act:

I believe this legislation merits more careful study and comparison with how other states have, or will, authorize online gaming. To be blunt, we simply don’t have the data to support this change at this time.

Perhaps Gov. Snyder should look to New Jersey for the data he seeks, as the Garden State has enjoyed considerable success since launching online poker and gambling in 2013. Atlantic City casinos have been buoyed by the revenue totals collected from i-gaming and New Jersey has recently partnered with Nevada and Delaware to improve liquidity in online poker.

New Governor Coming

However, it’s much too late to change Gov. Snyder’s mind as he’ll be vacating his office in a matter of days. His term limit has reached an end, requiring a change of guard in the governor’s seat. Incoming will be Gretchen Whitmer, who may soon find herself studying the details of a new online gambling bill to replace the veto-stamped HB 4926.

Rep. Brandt Iden, who was responsible for obtaining the approval of his colleagues for the Lawful Internet Gaming Act, has vowed to continue working toward passage of online poker and gambling regulation when the new legislative session gets underway on January 9. HB 4926 was favored 33-5 in a Senate vote, while the final House vote was tallied at 71-38.

With new lawmakers slated to take over following the November elections, Iden will be required to educate the newcomers with regard to i-gaming. It remains unclear where incoming Gov. Whitmer stands on the issue, but she has campaigned as being open to sports betting.

Gov. Snyder’s distaste of HB 4926 included the fact that the Michigan iLottery program currently sends about 27% of its revenue to the School Aid Fund, which amounted to a hefty $924 million in 2017. The vetoed bill failed to live up to those standards by a wide margin with less than 1% devoted to the School Aid Fund.

Although 2018 ended in disappointment for online poker and gambling advocates in the Great Lake State, the potential for better results in 2019 remains. However, if and when i-gaming legislation is passed in Michigan, it will take more than a year for regulation to take effect.

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