Michigan won’t have sports betting before the NFL season kicks off in early September. However, Brandt Iden, a third-term Republican state representative from the Kalamazoo area, is still hopeful to have sports betting pass legislation in Michigan at some point – even if it’s a longshot.
Although the original planned timetable seems to be out the window, Iden is a fan of the Detroit Lions, and admits, “so optimism is in my nature.”
The hope was to have sportsbooks up and running online and in local casinos before the NFL season, but now Iden thinks he can reroute and muster something up to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office, with the hope of having those initial plans ready by the Super Bowl.
“That, to me, is still this season,” Iden said. “and that, to me, would still be success. Especially if the Lions are in it, right?”
Iden has been pushing for legalized gambling for most of his four-plus years in the state legislature. After the Supreme Court ruling to legalize sports betting, he figured Michigan would already be in a spot to have America’s new obsession within the state’s borders. They were out in front of this and looked to be one of the first states to cash in on the newest way to stream revenue.
Not as many states were prepared the way Michigan was, so Iden worked with then-Senate majority leader Mike Kowali and others to make this all happen. Stakeholders were satisfied, as were numerous tribal casinos and three others in Detroit, and a package of internet gaming bills was even passed with bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.
However, a last-minute veto came from then-Governor Rick Snyder, who had concerns about encouraging too many people to gamble and the thought that sports betting and gambling would make the state’s own online lottery obsolete. The latter of those brings in revenue to the School Aid Fund, and both Snyder and Gov. Whitmer feel very strongly about having that become a lesser part of the state’s objectives.
“What they will find is that the lottery player is not a sports bettor, and a sports bettor is not a lottery player,” said Iden. “And if there is any crossover, people will do both.”
The revised Lawful Internet Gaming Act is now stagnant in the House Ways and Means committee, waiting for the thumbs up. As time goes on, it looks like Iden is preparing to come up with a new plan in the next month for a standalone sports betting bill that would allow both online and brick-and-mortar wagering within the state’s borders.
Iden is concerned that Michigan will start losing bettors if the surrounding states start legalizing sports betting. Mobile betting is what he’s truly concerned about, as some states like New Jersey have seen 8 percent of its $3 billion industry coming from that method.
“And it’s more and more apparent every day, as more states come online, that mobile is going to be where the action really is,” said Iden.
He also added, “The good news is if we come online before the end of the year, which I anticipate we probably will, we’ll be OK,” Iden said. “But if we don’t and Ohio gets online, and Canada comes online, Detroit will start losing players.”