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Legalized Michigan Online Poker Unlikely in 2019

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The state of Michigan could very likely be looking at another year going by without the introduction of legal online poker after strong hopes were raised that 2019 would be the year it finally happens. State Representative Brandt Iden was certainly anticipating having his Lawful Internet Gaming Act pushed through prior to the end of 2019 although this is looking less likely to happen. This just comes as another blow to the potential online gambling scene in Michigan, which has seen proposed bills fail to get through every year since 2016.

Michigan Online Poker Legislation

Lawful Internet Gaming Act Vetoed at End of 2018

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Emotions and hopes for the state’s online gambling scene were running high toward the end of 2018, as the Lawful Internet Gaming Act made it all the way through both chambers of the MI legislature and to the desk of former governor Rick Snyder (R). It seemed like it would be almost a certainty that, as the year came to a close, internet gaming would be finally approved in The Great Lakes State.

However, in a shock move right before he left office, Snyder chose to veto the Bill, which had made it as far as the governor’s desk for the very first time.

Rick SnyderOutgoing Governor Rick Snyder Vetoed Michigan Online Gaming Near the End of 2018

The veto came on Friday, Dec. 28 with the governor citing implications based upon uncertain revenue projections. That is, he voiced concerns over whether players currently frequenting land-based casino establishments and lottery retailers would move their custom over to the lower-taxed online scene, which could have resulted in a net loss for Michigan's revenue numbers and decreased funding for education.

Snyder’s term came to an end at the start of 2019, and he took the opportunity to veto various other gambling-related bills alongside the Lawful Internet Gaming Act prior to leaving. Many people who were expecting to see online wagering become a proper entity within the state saw this as a last-minute display of power by Synder with lawmaker Iden suffering a huge setback in the process.

Since the beginning of 2019, former governor Snyder has been replaced by Democrat Gretchen Whitmer. While her stance on legal, state-regulated sports betting has been a positive one, she has been somewhat less in favor of initiating an online gambling scene in Michigan.

Iden to Go for a Slightly Different Route?

Three Diverging Paths

Despite the fact that Iden has failed to get online gambling bills through legislation for several years now, he shows no sign of giving up on it. And even though he may be looking at another year where the Lawful Internet Gaming Act isn’t passed through, he has taken to also creating the Sports Betting Act in order to allow mobile sports betting in Michigan without attaching it to other forms of gambling there.

Brandt IdenState Representative Brandt Iden Has Worked Tirelessly to Make Michigan Legalized Internet Gambling a Reality

With this being the case, the Sports Betting Act will find itself operating alone, no longer tethered to iGaming. This has been mentioned as being a precaution by Iden who says that the mobile sports betting authorization may succeed even if this year's version of the Lawful Internet Gaming Act doesn’t. Yet, if this does occur, it will do little to satiate residents of the state who have been hoping to see legal online poker sites and casino gaming become a reality in Michigan.

Iden has spoken out about both bills, saying that even though they’re no longer tied to one another, he still has the intent of pushing both of them through the legislative process together. Speculation on whether or not Iden was putting the online gambling bill aside for the Sports Betting Act can be put to rest. "I believe they go together and will continue to move them as such,” Iden said of the two bills he has created.

Potential for Iden to Work Alongside Governor

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The current governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, has displayed very little support for the Lawful Internet Gaming Act in its current form even though Iden believes that the House and Senate will provide the needed support for both it and the mobile sports betting bill.

“The support is still there,” Iden said of the bills, before continuing with, “Nothing has changed. We still have the votes and support we’ve always had.” Yet, this support proved to not be veto-proof given Governor Snyder's ability to overrule the legislature last year. This is likely why Iden wants the present governor on-board with whatever online gambling legislation is passed.

In a bid to try and gain more ground as far as the bills are concerned, Iden intends to hold both of them up in the state’s House Ways and Means Committee, which he remains as the chair of until the end of October. This will then allow Governor Whitmer and her staff to negotiate over the language within the bills to potentially come to a compromise.

What Does the Governor Want?

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Unfortunately, Iden could be putting too much hope on Whitmer even coming to the table. There are significant differences between his proposal and what the governor wants as set forth in a request to Iden sent through the Michigan Treasury Department back in June.

Gretchen WhitmerGovernor Gretchen Whitmer Is Not a Big Fan of Michigan Licensed Online Gaming

Seeking to protect casino and lottery interests, she proposed a tiered tax structure for online gaming revenue, starting at 8% and increasing through several stages up to 40% on annual receipts in excess of $8 million. By contrast, Iden's bill calls for a tax of 8%, regardless of revenue, with a further 1.25% going to placate local casinos. The governor is also asking for higher licensing and renewal fees than Iden envisions.

The most troublesome aspect of Governor Whitmer's demands is that she wants online slots to be prohibited, allowing only table games and poker. Internet-based slot machines are viewed by the Governor's Office and the Michigan Treasury Department as the most direct competitor to the Michigan Lottery's i-gaming division.

Gaming corporations consider slots more lucrative than either casino table games or peer-to-peer poker, and so eliminating them from the get-go may serve to throttle the MI online gambling industry before it even launches. Iden has called the idea of banning internet slots a “non-starter.”

He himself has made comments over the fact that the governor has not spoken with him about the iGaming bill since the Governor's Office made its requests in June. Also, Whitmer is a Democrat and Michigan has quite the Republican-controlled legislature, which has resulted in clashes between the two before.

Iden to Possibly Hand Bill Over to Whitmer Regardless

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While Iden wants to provide Whitmer with a bill that she can get behind, he may just proceed with presenting her with one regardless of if she can support it or not. He has stated that he believes there needs to be legislation in place in order for Michigan to really be a competitive state.

He spoke of his attempts at having conversations with Whitmer to be able to educate both her and her office on the issues surrounding the bills but has said that he has not gotten very far. Therefore, "I’ll have to continue advancing the legislation and working the process internally with colleagues in the House and Senate,” he said with the hope of this bringing the governor to the table instead.

Because of the vast differences between the two sides on this issue, any expectations that are being placed on iGaming being signed into law by the governor before the end of 2019 are fairly hollow notwithstanding Representative Iden's optimism.

Michigan Capitol BuildingThough They're Likely to Try Again in Future, Michigan Lawmakers Have so Far Been Unable to Pass an Online Gaming Law That Sticks

Approval of Politicians Not Needed by Players

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For the time being, online poker and casino gambling can’t really be considered legally authorized within Michigan. Only once bills to this effect are enacted can these types of real money gaming garner such status.

This doesn't mean that they're illegal; it rather just means that they're unregulated by the state. There aren’t any federal laws that make online poker an illegal activity for individuals, and the state's anti-gambling statutes have never been used to prosecute internet poker aficionados. So there's legally nothing stopping you from playing at offshore sites if you so choose.

To find out more about gambling in Michigan and locate an online poker room that caters to its residents, read through our guide to poker online in Michigan. For general info pertaining to the United States as a whole, our overview of online poker rooms, history, and recommendations for Americans may appeal to you. For casino gaming over the internet, check out our page listing the top virtual casino brands for US residents.