Michigan Lawmakers: Show Us the Money
May 11, 2018 9:37 AM
by Brett Smiley
When Brandt Iden (R-District 61) was elected to the Michigan State Assembly in 2014, he probably thought his job was to shape the law. But in the intervening years, he’s learned that in order to best do that job, he must also be a student, teacher and mediator.
The champion of one of the Michigan sports betting bills, Iden is itching to get legislation passed, but he’s had to tamp down his expectations as both he and his fellow House members have learned more and more about how sports betting in Michigan will play out and have perfected the art of negotiating with the many players (tribal interests, gaming operators, and professional sports leagues, to name a few) involved in getting a bill to a full House vote.
“Conversations with the tribes have been going on for one-and-a-half years, and I think we’re in a good spot,” Iden told Sports Handle of working with Michigan’s Native American gaming interests. “They are still opposed to the bill, but not as staunchly as they were. … Right now, for me, it’s about educating my peers. And I do believe we are going to reach a middle ground with the tribes.”
Michigan currently has three commercial casinos in Detroit as well as more than a dozen tribal-owned casinos across the state. Michigan is also competing with Windsor, Ontario, Canada for casino dollars. The city is home to Caesars Windsor, a commercially owned, full-service casino that includes a sportsbook. Caesars is less a half-hour drive across the Detroit River from downtown Detroit.
Iden’s bill, HB 4926, is among four bills in the Michigan House. This bill, according to Iden, would “allow every brick-and-mortar, including tribal, to allow all the current games in-house and online,” including sports betting, should the Supreme Court make that legal. The high court is currently considering Murphy v NCAA, the case brought by the state of New Jersey contesting the legality of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. The 1992 law effectively makes sports betting illegal everywhere except Nevada. A decision could come as early as Monday, but is expected before the Supreme Court session ends in June.
They say that politics make strange bedfellows, and as such, Iden has been working with fellow representative Robert Kosowski (D-District 16), who currently has three sports betting bills (HB 4060, HB 4261, and HB 4529) in the House. Kosowski’s bills address legalizing sports betting across the state and allowing sports betting at state lottery terminals. He says he has deferred to Iden, who is in the Michigan House’s majority and is the chairman of the Regulatory Reform Committee, where all the bills currently sit, on the tribal issue, but the two are aligned when it comes to the end game and both have been vocal about legalizing sports betting in the media.
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