Michigan Online Poker Pooling Bill Headed To The Senate Floor

Posted on September 16, 2020 - Last Updated on September 22, 2020

Despite a brief hiccup, a bill to allow Michigan online poker sites to compact with other states moved forward on Tuesday.

The Senate’s Regulatory Reform Committee unanimously passed the bill after a Michigan senator briefly proposed what could’ve been another hurdle to clear.

It was unlike last week when Sen. Curtis Hertel, the bill sponsor, testified for less than 3 minutes without questioning. This time, Hertel had to do some work behind closed doors.

If passed by the full Senate, the bill would allow Michigan online poker sites to compact with other states offering online poker like Nevada, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Hertel told PlayMichigan last week he hopes the bill would be voted out of the Senate by the end of the month.

Bill nearly ran into another hurdle before vote

Sen. Dan Lauwers had discussed an amendment that would tie-bar the bill to another stalled bill allowing pari-mutuel betting on horse races from the past.

After a brief recess, Lauwers said he spoke to Hertel and withdrew his amendment.

The bill passed out of committee with a 9-0 vote.

PlayMichigan reached out to Hertel to learn more about what transpired and we have not yet heard back. The bill is on its way to the full legislative body.

Public hearing on Wednesday for online gambling

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

The Michigan Gaming Control Board is holding a public hearing on Wednesday to discuss draft rules for online gambling. Concurrently, the licensing process is underway.

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.

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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