Mike Kowall, a former Republican member of the Michigan Senate, has reassured voters that proposals to regulate online gaming in the state – which he sees as a critical boost to the Michigan economy – are not dead despite former governor Rick Snyder‘s late veto of the bill before leaving office.
Writing for Detroit News, Kowall – who also served as Majority Floor Leader of the Michigan Senate – said that Snyder “made a mistake,” and that “residents of the state of Michigan should not fret”.
Referencing the state’s recovery from “the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history,” Kowall wrote that Detroit – by some distance the state’s largest city – still had more to do if it was to “blossom back into the economic powerhouse we all know it can continue being”.
“In December, in a rare, bipartisan fashion, the Michigan Senate passed a bill to legalise online gambling, which, if signed into law, could have uplifted the city’s economy by bringing over tens of millions in revenue to the city and state’s economy,” wrote Kowall.
“Rather than reap the fruits of this new business activity and tax revenue, on December 28 the people of Michigan instead received word of governor Rick Snyder’s red veto pen forming a roadblock.”
However, Kowall told Michiganians that the coalition formed by Democrats and Republicans in support of the legalisation online gambling has become “too large to ignore,” adding that the proposals will “get through the governmental process sooner rather than later”.
He urged support for the new governor, Gretchen Whitmer, and the explosion of myths surrounding igaming so that the legislation can avoid a future veto.
Kowall cited numbers from New Jersey that, he said, support the notion that online gambling is good for land-based casinos, actually boosting revenue rather than hijacking it. He also addressed concerns regarding problem gambling, offering regulation as a safer alternative to the existing black market operations.
“The real question today is not whether online gambling should exist; it is who should control it and under what parameters. Residents in Michigan are already gambling at unregulated, offshore online sites. Should policymakers like me continue to allow constituents to be put at risk, or should they work to create a safer, legal marketplace?”
He ended on an optimistic note. “While both parties were disappointed by [the] veto of the online gaming bill, in the coming year my colleagues that are still serving look forward to working with Whitmer to push it over the finish line once and for all.”
COMMENT: Despite a flurry of executive orders in her first few days in office, Whitmer’s focus has been on delivering campaign promises relating to the openness of government and workers’ rights. At this stage there is no indication she will be sympathetic to the igaming lobby. That said, as Kowall writes, the bipartisan support could be more than enough to tip the scales towards Michigan regulating online gambling in the next year or so.