The Wolverine State could soon see a new revenue stream in the form of Michigan online casino games. That would require new legislation, and so far Gov. Gretchen Whitmer seems staunchly opposed.
Whitmer recently doubled down on her objections in a recent interview. Changing her stance might cause legislators to rethink their proposals.
Why Whitmer opposes Michigan online casino games
Whitmer isn’t opposed to Michigan online casino games per se. Her opposition is more about the consequences of legalization.
In a recent interview for NPR, Whitmer expressed her concerns:
“I’ve said very clearly, over and over again, that protecting the School Aid Fund, ensuring that we get every dollar back into the education of our kids, is my top priority. So I’m going to have a hard time supporting anything that doesn’t protect that goal.”
Whitmer fears online casino games will take traffic away from the Michigan Lottery, which donates proceeds to the School Aid Fund.
Legislators are trying to get Whitmer to back off her stance.
Online games backer makes case
Rep. Brandt Iden is a sponsor of HB4311, which would legalize online casino games. He responded to Whitmer in the same NPR interview.
“That’s one of the things that the Governor desperately needs right now. She’s looking for increased dollars for roads, she’s looking for increased dollars for education. And what I’m proposing is a way to help get her there, and I certainly hope she doesn’t stand in the way of bringing more dollars to kids.”
HB4311 earmarks 5% of revenue from online casino games for the School Aid Fund. Whether that would represent new revenue for schools or a depleted School Aid Fund depends on perspective.
Lottery vs. online games perception
According to the state lottery, 26 cents out of every dollar spent on lottery games goes to the School Aid Fund. Under Iden’s proposal, five cents of every dollar spent on online casino games would go to the School Aid Fund.
Those numbers aren’t as important as the perception about them. Iden sees the 5% going to the School Aid Fund as new revenue the schools aren’t currently getting.
If the amount of people playing the lottery doesn’t decrease with the introduction of online casino games, Iden would be correct.
Whitmer, on the other hand, sees dollars going from the lottery to online casino games. If that’s the case, that would represent a 21-cent-on-every-dollar reduction in revenue for the School Aid Fund.
There is time for Whitmer and the Legislature to come to a compromise, but so far that hasn’t been publicly discussed. Right now, it seems the two parties are at an impasse.