Quick Testimony A Good Sign For Michigan Online Poker Pooling

Posted on September 16, 2020

If only everything was that easy legislatively.

Sen. Curtis Hertel testified for less than three minutes on Tuesday to the Senate’s Regulatory Reform Committee in an effort to allow Michigan online poker sites to compact with other states offering online poker like Nevada, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

No one opposed or questioned for Hertel at the hearing.

Hertel told PlayMichigan he expects the bill to pass out of committee next week. He then hopes its out of the Senate by the end of the month.

Online poker, sports betting apps, and online casino could go live as soon as November.

Short testimony solid sign for poker players

Hertel, a Democrat from East Lansing, was one of the drivers of gambling legislation last year, which the committee chair recognized Tuesday after his testimony.

“To limit those groups of people to only Michiganders will severely limit the ability of Michiganders to actually find a game that’s interesting. And it will limit their ability to play in tournaments and all those other things.”

None of the other senators questioned Hertel after his testimony.

“Letting you off easy,” joked committee chair Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton).

Each of Michigan’s 15 casino operators will have a chance to can partner with a poker brand. PokerStars and partypoker are among the brands coming to Michigan, with WSOP.com among the other possibilities.

States like Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey have interstate poker pools through the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA). The benefit of compacts like this is that it brings more liquidity to these online poker rooms, offering players more options when selecting cash games and bigger prize pools when playing in tournaments.

Lottery concerns outlawed interstate online poker

Michigan passed expanding gambling laws in December with online poker as part of the equation. The Great Lakes State was the sixth state to legalize online poker.

However, the final act did not have a clause that would have directly facilitated interstate compacting.

The last-minute removal of the clause stemmed from concerns about progressive slot machine jackpots in online casinos directly competing with interstate lottery games such as Mega Millions.

“That is certainly a concern and we wanted to make sure that wasn’t allowed,” Hertel said Tuesday. “But the agreement that was written reflected all other games.’

“There’s no reason that was done that way. It was not part of the agreement with the governor’s office or the legislature. So this is fixing that unintended consequence and allowing people that choose to play online poker to play across state lines online.”

What’s in Michigan’s new bill?

The bill, introduced by Hertel on June 25, would amend the Lawful Internet Gaming Act.

It allows the Michigan Gaming Control Board to “enter into agreements with other jurisdictions, including Indian tribes, to facilitate, administer, and regulate multijurisdictional internet gaming by internet gaming operators to the extent that entering into the agreement was consistent with State and Federal laws and if the gaming under the agreement were conducted only in the United States.”

The inclusion of “Indian tribes” is interesting because it foretells the possibility of tribes having online poker outside of state regulations. As states move toward online gambling, it’s a scenario that could happen outside of Michigan.

The nod to agreements being “consistent with State and Federal laws” could reference the Wire Act. The ongoing federal battle could make this moot if courts agree with the Department of Justice (DOJ) that interstate gambling communication is banned by the act.

Though the DOJ is not expected to win, the ongoing battle slows growth of interstate pools.

In Michigan, online gambling draft rules face a public hearing on Sept. 23. Concurrently, the gaming control board is also working through the licensing process.

Matt Schoch Avatar
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Matt Schoch

A Michigan native, Matt has worked at newspapers in Michigan, Missouri and the Virgin Islands. A versatile sports reporter, Matt has covered sailing on the Great Lakes, cricket in the Caribbean, high school and pro playoffs, and the Olympics in Rio. He's also the host of the Locked On Pistons Podcast and producer of a documentary on Emoni Bates. A former blackjack dealer, Matt has studied the industry from all sides.

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