Breaking: Michigan Interstate Online Poker Bill Becomes Law Breaking: Michigan Interstate Online Poker Bill Becomes Law
Ken Lund, Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

The bill that would allow Michigan online poker sites to share their player pools with sites in other US states has been signed into law.

On December 29, Governor Gretchen Whitmer approved a series of bills, including SB 991 bill, paving way for interstate online poker.

The state’s legislature website was updated earlier today to reflect the Governor’s approval that came over the holidays.

Originally, when online poker was legalized by Governor Whitmer in December 2019, the Lawful Internet Gaming Act did not allow for Michigan to enter into agreements to allow cross-border liquidity sharing within the country.

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State Senator Curtis Hertel Jr sought to rectify the issue when on June 25 he introduced SB 991, which would grant state regulators the authority to authorize multijurisdictional access to online poker.

The bill specifically states that “the board may enter into agreements with other jurisdictions, including Indian tribes, to facilitate, administer, and regulate multijurisdictional internet gaming for poker by internet gaming operators to the extent that entering into the agreement is consistent with state and federal laws.”

It also restricts such deals to jurisdictions within the United States, so international liquidity will not be allowed.

The amendment to Michigan’s Lawful Internet Gaming Act was approved by the Senate on October 1 by a margin of 36 to 1 with one senator excused from the vote. From there, the bill was passed by the House on December 17, by a margin of 85-16, with nine absentees.

The Senate did acknowledge that “allowing multijurisdictional poker play would presumably result in increased play and wagering in online poker games” and “therefore increase revenues to the [state] fund by a small amount.”

So what now? Does that mean shared liquidity will be allowed in Michigan at the time of launch?

No, at the time of launch, online poker in Michigan will likely be ring-fenced, meaning players will only be able to compete with players within the state.

A measure to give the law immediate effect was defeated, (SJ 97 Pg. 2534) meaning that it will be at least 90 days before shared liquidity with other states can become a reality. So cross-border shared liquidity with other states is unlikely to happen before April.

However, according to the new law, multijurisdictional poker must not contravene federal law, calling into question whether efforts by the US Department of Justice to reinterpret the Wire Act to prohibit interstate gambling will impede the introduction of shared liquidity in Michigan.

As of now, three states (Delaware, New Jersey, and Nevada) have joined the MultiState Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA). Pennsylvania was also expected to join the MSIGA ,but state regulators changed course following the announcement by the DOJ that it was seeking to reinterpret the Wire Act. which operates in all those three states is the only operator in the country to have taken advantage of the MSIGA.

When is Online Poker Expected to Go Live in Michigan?

The passage of the interstate online poker bill comes just days ahead of the anticipated igaming launch expected to take place later in January.

Unfortunately, online poker is likely to lag behind online casino and sports betting as seen in Pennsylvania.

“We don’t know whether poker will be among the games offered at initial launch,” MGCB Communication Specialist Mary Kay Bean told pokerfuse in December. “It will depend on an operator’s readiness to offer poker and their desire to do so.”

“The games must be evaluated by independent testing labs and our own gaming lab and approved by the MGCB prior to being deployed,” Bean added.

Last month, the MGCB issued its first provisional licenses to 15 gaming platform providers, including The Stars Group (TSG), the parent company of PokerStars (that already operates in New Jersey and Pennsylvania) and BetMGM through Roar Digital (that offers online poker in New Jersey through partypoker US network).

Both PokerStars MI and the collection of BetMGM MI, partypoker MI and Borgata Poker are likely to be the first sites to offer online poker in Michigan.