Regulator Casts Doubt on Timing of Michigan Online Poker Launch
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As the calendar flips towards 2021, a 2020 online poker launch in Michigan now seems very unlikely. With just over three weeks remaining in the year and the biggest holiday period on the horizon, fans of online poker, online casino games and mobile sports betting should now be looking to next year before they can participate in iGaming in the Wolverine State.

Michigan Gaming Control Board Executive Director Richard Kalm now estimates the earliest go live date for the Michigan online gaming market is still six weeks off.

Despite a waiver issued last week by The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) that allowed the approval of the internet gaming rules developed by the MGCB to be submitted to the Secretary of State for final approval, more time is needed to complete all of the required administrative steps for an igaming launch in the state.

“If we hear the waiver request was approved by JCAR, we are hopeful that online gaming and sports betting can start this year,” Mary Kay Bean, a spokesperson for the MGCB, had previous told The Associated Press. But that hope seems to have dissipated.

“With the waive of the rules, I thought we were four weeks out,” Kalm told MLive in a telephone interview.

However, on the same day that the waiver was issued, the MGCB surveyed operators and their online gaming software providers about their progress towards completing their requirements for launch, and the responses indicated that they needed more time. “So we might be having to push that back, because we’re now looking at probably six weeks,” Kalm continued.

The MGCB had been pushing hard to make online gaming in Michigan a reality as soon as possible given the financial struggles the gaming industry in the state has experienced as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Online gaming would also provide people in Michigan with more freedom and opportunity for recreation and entertainment than is currently possible with many businesses closed because of the pandemic. Plus, online gaming is safer and would not expose them to the same level of risk of infection that is present in public spaces.

The internet gaming licensing process must be completed for the land-based casino partners of online gaming companies before they would be allowed to offer online gaming in the state.

“It’s all good,” Kalm said. “Nothing huge is standing in the way except getting them to the licensure level. The vendors, the suppliers, a lot of those — I’ve been issuing licenses daily and vendors exemptions daily, so there’s the whole substructure that supports this is all ready to go.”

“We’re going to give them provisional licenses as soon as we get all the paperwork and then finish our background investigations, and also the platforms that are required to submit their software and testing labs to make sure they comply with all of our requirements,” Kalm continued. “So that’s gonna take a little bit of time to get that done.”

Online Poker Rooms Expected in Michigan

PokerStars MI and partypoker MI are two online poker operators that are likely to be part of the first wave of online poker rooms to open in Michigan as their respective parent companies TSG Interactive US Services Limited and BETMGM, LLC (Roar Digital) submitted their applications before the August 14 deadline set by the MGCB.

The deadline was set back in July as part of the push by the MGCB to make online gaming in the state a reality in 2020.

The online poker operators that did not get their applications in before the deadline (and according to reports from the MGCB still have not submitted an application) include WSOP.com and its current platform provider 888poker, despite the fact that both have poker rooms in New Jersey and WSOP operates in Nevada and 888 provides the online poker software for three racinos in Delaware.

The lack of a current application pending with the MGCB makes it doubtful that a WSOP MI or 888 MI poker room will be a part of the initial group of online poker rooms to go live in the state.