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In and outs of the political campaigns, focusing on Michigan and Lansing, Tim Skubick will report regularly throughout the primary and then general election campaigns.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Gambler Is Back

       If Kenny Rogers, the gambler and singer were a lawmaker, his name would be Rick Johnson.
       The affable former GOP Speaker of the Michigan House, who is now a high rollin' lobbyist for one of the big legal shops in town, never saw a gambling issue he didn't like.
        When the horse racing industry, if you can call it that given its recent decline, was hoping to slap slot machines trackside, there was Rep. Johnson standing next to Gov. Jennifer Granholm in a rare bi-partisan TV commercial pitching racinos.  It failed.
        Undaunted Mr. Johnson is back with another scheme on behalf of two clients who want to upgrade the so-called pull-tab game now in many bars and restaurants.
        Johnson argues if these modernized machines are=2 0installed, they would generate upwards of $1 billion dollars…a tidy some of money for beleaguered lawmakers who have no money to spend these days.
        Here's the rub:  The casino industry and the religious right will oppose this effort as an expansion of gambling and under state law, the voters have to approve it.
        Johnson has a legal opinion that argues his side can win that fight in the courts if it gets that far.
        But all this is moot unless and until a certain governor gives her blessing and that is not immediately forth coming.  In fact Johnson and company have been pushing this thing with Gov. Jennifer Granholm for over two years and she has not budged.
        And just last week, Johnson got word she was still not ready to sign off, if at all.
        With a mushrooming budget deficit, the gambler Mr. Johnson is wondering what is taking her so long?


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