Stuck In Neutral: Which Online Poker Brands Are Coming To Michigan?

Posted on October 9, 2020 - Last Updated on October 14, 2020

It appears Michigan online poker players will someday be able to compete across state lines.

That development should lead to a more mature market. It also makes the Michigan poker market a bit more appealing to other potential brands.

PartyPoker and PokerStars have long been the presumed names associated most with the state once online gambling launches later this year.

Though online poker tables might not go live until 2021, big brands still exist who might ante up for market share. After all, Detroit casinos and tribal casinos are each allowed one online poker skin as per the online gambling law.

We’ll likely have to wait to find out who will join the poker party, though, as online sports betting and online casinos should launch first. But we can make a few educated guesses.

PartyPoker, PokerStars are in position first

Flutter Entertainment and its brand The Stars Group were among the first online gambling companies to partner up in Michigan, announcing a tribal access deal in January.

The Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians Gaming Authority and Flutter announced the pact just six days into 2020.

The access includes the Fox Bet sportsbook in Michigan but also was an early claim to the Michigan poker market for PokerStars.

PartyPoker, meanwhile, is a Roar Digital entity and should figure into MGM Grand Detroit’s digital offerings.

PlayMichigan reached out to spokespersons from PokerStars and PartyPoker about launch timelines but neither had responded as of Thursday afternoon.

It’s possible at least one of the brands is launched before the end of 2020.

How WSOP.com finds its way into Michigan online poker

Caesars agreeing to purchase William Hill in September opens the door for more poker brands.

William Hill had an access agreement in place this year with the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.

The UK company doesn’t have an established poker brand in the US. It is mostly concerned with sports betting and online casino. That seems like a simple way for Caesars to squeeze one of its poker brands through.

WSOP offers qualifiers to the World Series of Poker tournaments and also cash games, Blast poker, and tournaments.

888 Poker software powers WSOP.com and also has its own separate brand active in New Jersey.

The Caesars deal with William Hill is not expected to be finalized until the second half of next year.

BetRivers and long-term poker plans?

Poker legend Phil Hellmuth talked to PlayUSA recently and let the cat out of the bag about another potential brand.

The “Poker Brat” was instrumental in linking up Rush Street Interactive for its reverse merger and subsequent public offering.

Hellmuth also said Rush Street is “100%” planning on offering online poker.

RSI owns the BetRivers brand and has partnered with the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians for online access. The tribe operates Little River Casino Resort in Manistee.

Through a spokesperson, BetRivers declined to comment for this story.

Parx, Penn and possibilities

In theory, two Pennsylvania companies could also enter the market.

Parx Casino has a license to open online poker in PA, the home state for its flagship casino near Philadelphia. Parx partnered for sports betting and online gambling in Michigan with the Gun Lake Tribe, operators of Gun Lake Casino in Wayland.

Penn National Gaming could unveil a poker platform through its Hollywood brand or possibly through Barstool down the road. Penn owns Greektown Casino in Detroit.

However, neither Parx nor Penn has given any hint as to a possible online poker site.

What is for sure, though, is Michigan’s interest in an interstate poker compact. Once a reality, it changes the game for online poker in the state.

Next steps for online poker? Shared player pools

Though the process nearly had a huge hiccup, an overwhelming majority of state senators voted last week to allow Michigan to enter into multi-state online poker compacts.

The original drafts of expanded gambling bills in 2019 allowed for compacts. But lawmakers took it out late because of concerns it might compete with multi-state lottery pools.

Sen. Curtis Hertel wrote the bill to allow for multi-state poker pools, which was voted out of the Senate, 36-1. The senator said he expects the bill to get House consideration in November.

When passed, the Michigan Gaming Control Board could elect to enter the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement. That agreement currently includes Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey.

Pennsylvania has legal online poker but has not yet entered the MSIGA.

In any case, before the MGCB can consider joining the interstate compact, the bill has to become law. And before any interstate online poker happens in Michigan, the sites must launch.

It is all just a matter of time.

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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