Michigan’s Outgoing Governor Vetoes Online Gaming Bill
By Ken Edwards, 10 January 2019
Just days before finishing his term as Michigan Governor on January 1 2019, Rick Snyder vetoed legislation that would have authorized online gambling in Michigan through Detroit’s three casinos and tribal casinos throughout the state because of his fear of reduced online lottery tax revenue for schools and his flaccid concerns about making it “much easier” to gamble.
Thankfully, Snyder is being replaced by the progressive Gretchen Whitmer as Michigan State’s Governor. With the state’s new legislative session beginning on January 9 2019, (when we expect the dual topics of sports betting and online gaming to be raised again), we expect the state to have another crack at expanding Michigan’s gaming sector and ramp up the state government’s revenue raising potential for infrastructure projects, health and education systems, law and order and fire protection services, day care and veteran’s services among others.
Why was Snyder so Opposed to Gaming Reform?
When House Bill 4926 passed on December 23 2018, it appeared that Michigan was about to legalize sports betting and online casino games. However, that immediate dream for a swift vote and immediate uptake of sports betting and online gaming was cynically blocked by the outgoing state Governor Rick Snyder after he used his veto to supress the legislation.
House Bill 4928 had already passed the House of Representatives in June 2018, and with the passage of House Bill 4926 just days before Christmas, Michigan gambling industry experts and industry representatives were looking forward to introducing sports and online betting early in 2019.
Despite the fact that the bills had been painstakingly put together and drafted with both industry and state legislative input to provide a comprehensive framework for legalized online gaming and sports betting, Snyder’s use of the veto torpedoed the legislation (for now). We expect a similar (if not identical) bill to be introduced shortly that also includes regulations regarding fees, taxes, and penalties – including specifics for tribal casinos in the state – as the previous bills did.
The Republican Governor’s intervention may not deal a killer blow to the state’s economy, and in the long term, should not lock Michigan out of the burgeoning US sports betting and online gambling market. By vetoing the bills, along with a raft of 38 others, just hours before he officially stepped down as Governor, Snyder will anger many who are unlikely to buy into his publicly stated ‘budgetary concerns’ reasoning for the decision.
In reality, many have voiced their opinion that Snyder’s veto decision may well have been motivated by his extremely close relationship with Sheldon Adelson – chairman and owner of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, who was one of the major driving forces behind the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling since its formation in 2014.
The Adelson Family are on the public record to have known to have donated more than $123 million to the Republican party in the Michigan over the past two gubernatorial elections in the state, and Governor Snyder has not surprisingly been an avid supporter of the Coalition.
As other jurisdictions all around the United States and in fact, all around the world have discovered, by refusing to accept the borderless realities of a globalized online world, and introducing an associated licensed and regulated marketplace, only succeeds in driving customers underground to use unlicensed online operators and simply ensures that the local jurisdictions are locked out of benefiting economically.
Many gambling industry experts are predicting that by joining soon to be legal Michigan in 2019, up to 24 US states could potentially have legal sports betting and/or online gaming within the coming 18 to 24 months.