Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a package of bills into law on Friday that expand gaming in the state to include online poker, online casino games, sports betting and fantasy sports contests. The Wolverine State becomes the sixth state to legalize online poker following Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
The bills sat with the governor for just over a week after the legislature passed the final versions of the bills last week.
Online gaming and sports betting are permitted through partnerships with the state’s three land-based casinos in Detroit as well as the 23 tribal casinos throughout the state.
A portion of the new revenue generated by the state from online gaming and sports betting is earmarked for the School Aid Fund. The state will also use the new tax revenue to provide financial relief for first responders that have incurred illnesses while protecting others through the First Responder Presumed Coverage Fund (FRPCF).
“My top priority in signing this legislation was protecting and investing in the School Aid Fund, because our students deserve leaders who put their education first,” said Whitmer in a press release announcing the new laws. “Thanks in part to the hard work and leadership of Senator Hertel and Representative Warren, these bills will put more dollars in Michigan classrooms and increase funding for firefighters battling cancer. This is a real bipartisan win for our state.”
Of the $19 million in new revenue expected by the Michigan Department of Treasury, $4.8 million will go to the School Aid Fund and $4 million will go to the FRPCF.
Governor Whitmer announced the signing of the bills into law on Twitter.
Online gaming legislation made it to the governor’s desk late last year too, but it was eventually vetoed by then-Governor Snyder over concerns that included the negative impact that online gaming might have on the Michigan State Lottery which provided almost $1 billion to the Michigan School Aid Fund in 2018 alone.
When Will Online Poker be Available in Michigan?
Online poker is likely to take a back seat to the other new gaming verticals. Sports betting and online casino games generally produce more revenue than online poker and will likely be a priority for both operators and state gaming officials in charge of regulating the new games.
As a peer-to-peer game, online poker software is also more complex and requires additional regulatory oversight and testing than online casino and sports betting platforms.
In Pennsylvania, the most recent state to launch a full selection of online gaming including sports, casino and poker, poker lagged the other verticals by more than three months. In addition, only one operator, PokerStars PA, has been approved to offer online poker while several sites offer online casino games and sports betting.
That being said, the Michigan Gaming Control Board will have the opportunity to learn from the successes and failures of the states that have already undertaken the task of launching an online gaming market.
Given that we have seen New Jersey take only nine months to launch its igaming market, it is possible that online poker could be up and running in Michigan before the end of 2020. But if the MGCB more closely follows the timeline of Pennsylvania, it could be near the end of 2021 before players take their seats that the first legal and regulated online poker tables in Michigan.