While we are disappointed our players in Michigan will no longer be able to play our highly-rated social games, we always consider the interests of all of our stakeholders and remain focused on VGW’s strong long-term outlook Virtual Gaming Worlds (VGW) confirmed that it will shut down its sweepstakes casino operations, including Global Poker, in Michigan.
The move comes against a backdrop of a crackdown on unregulated gaming in the Great Lakes State, led by the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) with the full backing of AG Dana Nessel.
Australia-based VGW operates Global Poker and two additional sweepstakes casinos, Chumba Casino and LuckyLand Slots, in Michigan.
According to a post on the social media platform Discord, VGW told players that it was updating its terms and conditions (T&C), and that its operations in Michigan would cease on February 1, 2024.
“Following careful consideration and analysis, we have made the decision to no longer offer our products in the State of Michigan,” a VGW spokesperson told pokerfuse on Thursday. “We have not done this lightly and are 100 percent focused on ensuring all impacted customers are well informed about the changes and supporting them through this transition.
“As we’ve repeatedly said, we actively monitor developments in the jurisdictions we operate in to ensure we are well placed to respond. While we are disappointed our players in Michigan will no longer be able to play our highly-rated social games, we always consider the interests of all of our stakeholders and remain focused on VGW’s strong long-term outlook.”
Regulated, Real Money Poker vs Sweepstakes
There is regulated real money online poker in Michigan, as well as online casinos and sportsbooks. PokerStars MI, Michigan’s largest online poker site, competes against BetMGM and WSOP; each has a license from the Michigan Gaming Control Board to offer online gambling for real money.
However, they have — until now — also competed against online poker rooms and casinos that operate under sweepstakes laws. These are not real money gambling sites, but players can win real money cash prizes. All three VGW sites — Global Poker, Chumba Casino and LuckyLand Slots — are based on this sweepstakes model.
Many of the best sweepstakes casinos online do not operate in Michigan. Pokerfuse’s top two recommendations for US players looking for a sweepstakes casino — High 5 Casino and Stake.us — are not available in MI.
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Winding Down Global Poker in Michigan
Players purchase the equivalent of play-money tokens (aka Gold Coins) and, as a gift, they receive a second type of token (aka Sweeps Coins). While both tokens can be used separately to play casino-style games and poker, only Sweeps Coins can be redeemed for real money prizes. Players can win more Sweeps Coins and eventually redeem them for cash prizes. The exact terminology for the tokens varies on each site, but their purpose is the same.
With two types of tokens out in wide circulation, VGW has to wind down its operations in increments. For its Global Poker site, it announced the following deadlines:
- November 1 — Players will no longer able to purchase Gold Coins
- After November 1 — Players can continue to play using any Gold Coins or Sweeps Coins remaining in their account until December 1
- December 1 — Mail-in requests for free Sweeps Coins will no longer be accepted
VGW said players will be able to redeem any Sweeps Coins won before December 1 for prizes up until February 1, 2024.
“After this date, you will not be able to make any further redemptions,” the company said. “Any redemptions you wish to make need to be lodged before February 1, 2024.”
Players’ accounts on Global Poker will be deactivated on February 1. VGW added that “the personal data associated with that account will be retained to meet our legal statutory obligations.
Regulator Cracks Down on Illegal Gaming
VGW is exiting Michigan at a time when the MGCB is cracking down on illegal gambling.
The regulator has been actively shutting down illegal storefront casinos and seizing illegal gaming equipment, including slots. Recent examples include multiple raids on illegal betting parlors in Flint.
Last month, Nessel ordered another sweepstakes casino, Golden Hearts Games (GHG), to cease operations after it violated state law. GHG had been operating in the state without a license, Nessel said.
“When companies like Golden Hearts attempt to circumvent Michigan’s gaming laws, they create the false impression that their games are legal and safe for consumers,” the AG said in a statement at the time.
MGCB enacted a ban on prop-style daily fantasy sports (DFS) operators on October 11, a move that likely forces PrizePicks out of Michigan, too — although the site still appeared to be accepting players from Michigan as of Thursday evening. Another DFS operator, Underdog Fantasy, left the state in 2022.
Learn more about real money online casinos in Michigan in our complete guide.