However, that does not necessarily make it legal to play online poker inside the state. It only means there is no law on the books preventing it.
Current Michigan anti-gambling laws certainly make it illegal to operate an online poker site inside the state. In fact, no current online poker operator is testing the government’s resolve on that point. However, there are a number of offshore online poker sites willing to take customers from Michigan. Of course, federal law makes it difficult to get money on and off these sites, but it’s not impossible.
So it stands, there are currently Michigan residents who are technically legally playing on offshore online poker sites operating in somewhat of a gray area. However, in the absence of legalized and regulated online poker in the state, the legality of any and all of this activity remains in question.
Legal gambling in Michigan
Michigan residents can gamble at a number of different locations inside the state. There are Native American casinos, commercial casinos, pari-mutuel gambling at horse racing facilities, and the Michigan Lottery.
In fact, there’s already legal and regulated online gambling available through the Michigan Lottery. The lottery offers online tickets to its most popular draw games, keno games and even electronic scratch-off games that feature a graphic interface making them similar to slot machines or video lottery terminals.
However, there is no online poker. At least, not the legal and regulated kind.
The state has anti-gambling laws that make most private gambling illegal. Plus, legislation passed in 1999 making it illegal to use the internet to violate those same anti-gambling laws. However, legislators passed an act in 2000 repealing it.
What are the chances online becomes legal in Michigan?
As it stands, Michigan has no law strictly prohibiting online poker or gambling over the internet. However, lawmakers are considering passing legislation that would clarify its position.
The Michigan legislature introduced a bill in March 2017 seeking to license the operation of online gambling sites, including online poker operators. The bill was later amended to change the licensing process for Native American casinos interested in becoming online gambling operators. The original legislation was only applicable to commercial casinos. Under the amendment, tribes could alter their compacts to allow for online gambling licenses for Native American casinos.
There is some hope the legislation could be considered in the fall or early 2018. However, a number of legal issues surrounding state law, federal law, and tribal gaming compacts still stand in its way.