Online poker has the potential to be bigger and better in Michigan after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed into law legislation allowing multistate online poker compacts.
The bill provides the Michigan Gaming Control Board with the option of entering into an agreement with other states and jurisdictions to share online poker liquidity. New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware currently have such an arrangement to pool players.
Whitmer signed the bill Dec. 29.
The first Michigan online casinos are expected to launch later this month, though it is unclear if online poker will be part of the initial rollout. Online poker is expected to launch shortly after with MGM poker and PokerStars in Michigan.
Multistate online poker law corrects oversight
The language from S 991 originally was in the Lawful Internet Gaming Act that Michigan lawmakers passed in 2019 t0 legalize online gaming.
However, it was removed at the last minute at the request of the Michigan Lottery. When introducing the bill in June, Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. stated:
“That was a worry about no multi-state slot machines being in effect to compete with the lottery. We didn’t mean to include poker. But, moving as quickly as we were, it was one of the things we missed.”
After the bill passed through the House with ease in December, Hertel said he was glad to correct the mistake.
Bill overcame one obstacle to reach finish line
Although the bill passed 85-16 in the House and 36-1 in the Senate, it did almost get derailed in a Senate committee.
Sen. Dan Lauwers attempted to tie-bar the legislation to a controversial historical horse racing bill in October. The HHR bill faced opposition from Michigan casinos and gaming tribes that ultimately defeated it.
Tie-barring two bills together means that one can’t be signed into law without the other. Lauwers thought by giving casinos something they wanted, he could get the HHR bill passed.
But casinos weren’t that heavily invested in this minor cleanup of the online gaming bill. Hertel rushed to the Regulatory Reform Committee hearing and was able to stop the effort, which likely would have sunk the legislation.
Multistate online poker in Michigan won’t happen overnight
Customers benefit from allowing companies to pool players between their sites in multiple states. For cash games, more players will be on at non-peak times. But the real difference is felt in tournaments, which fill up to create larger prize pools.
But when online poker does launch in Michigan, customers will have to wait a while before they can play with more than other Michigan residents. The law is one thing; an interstate online poker pact another thing entirely.
The bill won’t go into effect for 90 days. Then it will be up to the MGCB to decide if it wants to enter into the existing Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement with New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware. Pennsylvania and West Virginia also have legal online poker.
The MGCB might want to wait until a federal decision is made on the Wire Act, which has ramifications on interstate gaming.