Sports betting here? Wanna bet?
If a non-Michigan visitor asked you to describe three things that Michiganders love to do, you’d have to say drink beer, play cards (especially Euchre), and bet on anything that moves.
And the latter trait is the reason behind the legislative push to legalize internet and sports betting. As long as lots of folks are betting illegally, why not make it legal, and collect the profits?
Hence, state lawmakers are on the verge, for the second time, of tapping into that betting “fever” with a windfall for the state.
Well, not quite.
Take a guess at the first year “windfall” if this is done — and “if” is the key word we will kick around shortly — think it’s $500 million? $350 million? $80 million? Or $25 million?
The answer is $80 million, according to West Michigan Republican lawmaker state Rep. Brant Iden, who has been on this mission for about five years.
He admits it’s not a golden goose, but says it’s a goose worth cooking, because, right now, the only folks making any dough are the bookies and other under-the-table types who enable Michiganders to get rich and retire in Florida.
This is the second time around for the bowtie-clad lawmaker, who does not look like a gambling man, but, somewhere inside, he’s channeling his inner Kenny Rogers of “Know When to Fold ‘Em” fame.
“Over the next five years, it could get to $100 or $150 million,” he hopes, with all of that money going to education.
Oh, boy. Here we go again.
Now, to the most-often asked question of, “Where does the lottery money go?” this will be added: “Where does the internet gaming money go?”
And one of the players asking that is none other than the governor herself. She is mucho concerned that allowing gamblers to expand their games will cause the state’s I-Lottery to lose revenue — and, of course, all of those dollars go to education. Hence, while Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has no problem with more gaming, per se, she is guarding the education hen house like a worried mother hen.
Mr. Iden has tried to lower her temperature by telling her that, in Pennsylvania, the state lottery has not been hurt.
The Whitmer administration is now willing to talk about how to address the issue and proposes a “trigger” mechanism that would increase the state tax rate on those games if the School Aid Fund dips by 3%.
Mr. Iden, whose package was vetoed by former Gov. Rick Snyder, wants to avoid another veto, so he could take the governor’s offer, resulting in her signature and not a veto.
Over in the state Senate, the leader there is not jumping up and down over the House-passed proposal, as Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey worries about providing more temptations for those who can’t control their betting instincts now.
But, in the end, look for him to say yes while perhaps holding his nose as he does.
While it is risky business to predict the outcome, all the signs point to a final deal. That’s because all of the tribal and Detroit casinos are on board and, with a host of well-heeled lobbyists greasing the legislative wheels, come Super Bowl or certainly by the time of the Final Four (with Michigan State University in the final two), you’ll be able to bet your boots off.
Wanna bet on it?