Representative Brand Iden has tried to see online gambling come to Michigan for quite some time. The Rep had legislation approved in the House and Senate last year, only to see it vetod by the former Governor of the state. Now, Representative Iden is having to face-off against current Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who refuses to compromise on online gambling legislation.
During the summer meeting of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States, Iden spoke with Online Poker Report, stating that Governor Whitmer has refused to compromise on online gambling legislation in the state. The Treasury Department of the state just recently published information from an analysis that recommended that the online gambling legislation removes online slots and increases the tax rate in order for Michigan to be successful.
Iden has been reportedly unable to speak with the governor and wants to do so to be able to have a direct conversation about online gambling legislation. According to Iden, Whitmer refuses to talk to him directly and he has been dealing only with her staff members. He is willing to meet with the governor at any time and talk about the issue.
Back in May, it was made known that the governor would veto the measure if it continued as it stood. The governor was worried that the taxes and fees for online gambling would cannibalize revenues from the land-based casinos and state lottery.
By June, Iden was ready to provide a compromise to see the state get started with online gaming. He was ready to increase the tax rate and provide a larger portion of funds to the School Aid Fund. At this time, the analysis by the Treasury was provided, which showed that the state should have tiered licensing fees that go as high as $1 million. Tax rates would be increased to as high as 40%.
According to Iden, creating a tax rate of 40%, it shows that those appointing this number have no knowledge of what is currently happening in the gambling industry today. Iden is willing to raise taxes into the double digits but not as high as the 40% rate. He is also open to provide all revenues to education if that is enough compromise for the governor to approve the measure.
The governor along with the Treasury are worried that online slot games will cannibalize the scratch-off ticket sales of the lottery. The lottery provides 100% of their proceeds to education funding and the worry is that such funding would suffer due to the online slot games.
Iden has pointed out that the industry could still get started with other games such as table games and/or poker. However, without slots, there will be a major decrease in revenues produced from the industry.
Iden does feel that more education is needed for the administration to fully understand the issues at hand. He feels that because the governor’s office is ignoring experts and listening to the Treasury, they are not getting the full picture of the industry as it could be.
The Treasury is not an expert in online gambling and Iden feels that the administration needs to pay attention to experts who have years of experience in the industry.
Iden has tried his best to bring online gambling to Michigan. It seems the governor or other political issues in the House and Senate may lead to the state being unable to pass online gambling legislation at this time.