Potential for Online Poker in Michigan Halted by a Huge Hurdle

May 31, 2018 by Carolyn J Dawson

michigan online pokerEver since sports betting became a legal activity across the United States, more and more of the 50 states have been pushing for various other gambling options to be made legal. Online poker is one such possibility, and the state of Michigan is looking to be able to legalise this too. However, it does have one big obstacle that is standing straight in the middle of its route. That problem? Indian gaming tribes do not support the bill of Michigan Rep. Brandt Iden.

According to him, the tribes within Michigan are against Section 16 of his online poker and gambling bill (H4926). This bill would authorise online casino and poker gaming in the state along with sports betting. However, Section 16 states that should federal law change and end up prohibiting tribes from being able to offer online gambling that occurs outside of their Indian reservation, commercial casinos in Michigan would still be able to operate such. Iden has said before that this section of the bill is quite commonly known as its “poison pill”. Rather than allowing the commercial casinos to continue operating under such circumstances, Indian tribes want them to also cease offering online gambling.

While Iden does agree that this particular part of the bill is cause for some legal concern, he doesn’t believe that the federal government will take action to change it. Iden himself doesn’t have so much authority on the matter either, so there’s very little that he can do about it. Indian tribes exist as sovereign nations under federal law and they don’t answer to state legislature. Each individual tribe gets to negotiate their own compacts with the governor of the state.

So, Why Can’t Section 16 Just Be Removed?

Iden himself added Section 16 to his bill upon receiving a request to do so from three commercial casinos within Detroit. This took place so that he could get their support for his online gambling bill. These casinos weren’t interested in investing money into the startup costs of providing online gambling, only to have to stop due to a decision that isn’t relative to/doesn’t concern them in any way.

Naturally, Iden is sympathetic towards the native tribes’ own concerns about wanting to be treated equitably. He has claimed before that he is working on “softening the language” of Section 16 after stating that the state has come “90% of the way with the tribes” on the legislation. However, he remains sceptical that they will be able to get them to proceed the rest of the way. Despite this, Iden also remains positive on the possibility of online gambling becoming legal and available in the state of Michigan.

It was hoped that Iden’s bill would be passed at the start of May, although colleagues of his were not ready to make a move on the topic – more specifically, the ones who had tribal casinos located in their districts. Yet, after the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the federal law on sports betting, interest in his online poker and casino bill soon picked up. He still hopes to bring his bill to a vote before the break for the summer on June 21.