Find out what multi-state poker means, why it’s important, which states are included in the interstate poker agreement (MSIGA), and what we expect to happen for the remainder of 2022 into 2023.
US multi-state online poker refers to regulated online poker operators in the United States connecting their online poker rooms together. This means that, for example, players on WSOP in Nevada plays alongside those on WSOP in New Jersey.
Also called cross-state or interstate online poker, this concept is very important to online poker, because it means there are more players in the overall player pool. It makes for bigger tournaments and more cash game action, allowing operators to offer bigger guarantees and spread more game types around the clock. Also called “shared liquidity,” it is critical to a healthy online poker ecosystem.
For operators to take advantage of multi-state poker, they must operate online poker rooms in at least two US states that:
As of late 2022, only three states tick every box: New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware. And because only one US online poker site is active in at least two of these states (through a partnership between WSOP and 888), there is today only one true US multi-state online poker network — the WSOP US Network.
However, Michigan has completed three of the four steps above, and is expected soon to complete step 4 — authorizing poker rooms. This will benefit two more operators: PokerStars US and BetMGM Poker US are active in both Michigan and New Jersey, and should soon be able to combine these networks together.
Meanwhile, the WSOP US network will also grow into four states, adding WSOP Michigan to its existing network.
In this guide, we will look into all the different aspects of multi-state online poker, including history, legislation, current situation, and what is likely to come.
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|Allows for cross-state play?||Y||Y||Y||Y||N||Y||N|
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However, in 2014, Nevada and Delaware signed the first multi-state poker agreement, allowing them to combine player pools across state borders. Then, in 2017, New Jersey joined the agreement, creating a three-state compact known as the MSIGA (Multi-state Internet Gaming Agreement), which looked promising.
Regulated states combining their player pools would allow for a creation of a much bigger network with better traffic and bigger potential. But things came to a halt quickly thereafter, with the DOJ moving in to try and apply the Wire Act to online poker. While Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware kept their interstate compact, this was not a good sign for any new states that were about to regulate online poker, at least in terms of entering multi-state poker compacts.
After a lengthy legal battle on multiple fronts, things are finally starting to look better, and this was signaled by Michigan becoming the fourth state to join the MSIGA in April 2022. This was the first (and so far, the only) state to join the compact in five years.
Nevada and Delaware were the first US states to pass online poker legislation. This happened in 2012, announcing the new era of regulated online poker in the United States. However, these laws were only applicable to relevant states, meaning NV and DE could only offer online poker to people physically present within their borders.
Then, in 2014, these two states decided to enter the first (and the only so far) multi-state poker agreement, known as the Multi-state Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA). The agreement allowed for sharing players across state borders, meaning players from both states could play together at the same tables.
This was a landmark moment, as it hinted at a possibility of a US-wide poker network as more states would pass their own laws and potentially enter the agreement.
New Jersey was one of these states. Online poker was legalized in 2013, and Garden State became the third regulated market in the US. Although the legislation was passed early that year, the first poker sites only went live towards the end of 2013, in November.
However, it took a few years before the state joined the MSIGA. It finally happened in October 2017, when New Jersey signed the agreement with DE and NV, allowing for shared player pools among all three states. As far as operators are concerned, The WSOP US app was the only one to really profit from this deal, as they were (and still are) the only site to have a presence in all three markets.
At this point in time, several other states were on the brink of passing their own legislation, and it was expected that these states would be willing to join the MSIGA as well. However, the US Department of Justice had other plans and put any such hopes on ice for several years.
The Federal Wire Act (also known as the Interstate Wire Act) was passed in 1961, making it illegal to place wagers across state lines using wire communication facilities. The Act was aimed at putting a stop to criminal syndicates operating in the country. At the time it was passed, online gambling of any type, let alone online poker, was a distant dream at best.
In 2011, the DOJ released the opinion that any interstate communications that do not fall under the scope of sports betting were not covered by the Wire Act. This conclusion encouraged states to enter interstate poker agreements.
However, in 2018, the Department of Justice decided to reverse this conclusion, announcing that Act’s prohibitions were not limited just to sports betting. The new conclusion made the Wire Act Applicable to all forms of online gambling in the United States, including online poker.
This was bad news for the existing members of the MSIGA and any future prospects. And while New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware decided to ride the wave and keep the agreement in place, newcomers to the market were reluctant to follow suit.
This included Pennsylvania, which saw the online poker act passed in 2017, and Michigan, which regulated online poker in 2019.
The new Wire Act interpretation was unfavorable for many states that already had legalized online gambling or were looking to do so. But it was actually the New Hampshire Lottery Commission that decided to take the DOJ to court and challenge their 2018 opinion.
The NH Lottery Commission asked for two things:
The wording of the lawsuit was such that, if accepted, it would automatically remove online poker and other types of gambling activities from the scope of the Wire Act as well, so this was a case that had a lot of bearing on the future of multi-state poker.
The case was heard in front of the US District Court for the District of New Hampshire, and the judge ruled in favor of the NH Lottery, reverting the Wire Act interpretation back to 2011. However, the verdict did state that this decision would not prevent the US Government from prosecuting anyone who was not a part of this lawsuit. The Court “set aside” the 2018 interpretation in a broad sense, but some ambiguity still remained.
The DOJ appealed the decision, and the case found its way to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. The Court upheld the 2019 decision, confirming that the Wire Act interpretation is limited only to sports betting activities.
This was a big victory for online gambling in the US, and especially for the prospects of interstate poker in the country. The Department of Justice had an opportunity to appeal this decision and take it to the Supreme Court, but they passed on the opportunity to do so, potentially ushering in a new era of online poker in the US.
With legal clarity that the Wire Act does not apply to online poker, states were now free to make a decision without fear of federal prosecution or other ramifications. However, it was still unclear what these developments would mean for multi-state poker.
In April 2022, we got some clarity as Michigan joined the MSIGA, becoming the fourth state in the compact. Michigan signing the agreement made it pretty clear that regulated states would not seek to create new compacts and would rather continue to build upon the existing one.
This was an important step for the operators in the state, as both PokerStars and BetMGM have a presence in Michigan and New Jersey, opening doors for them to combine player pools and create a bigger network.
WSOP.com, however, will be the room benefiting the most once again, as it will now be able to add its MI player pool to the already existing tri-state network.
The big question now is what happens with Pennsylvania. It is the biggest regulated market in the US, and its online gambling law allows for the state to enter multi-state compacts. So, it is expected that PA will follow suit in the near future and join the MSIGA as well.
If that were to happen, all major stakeholders in the US, including WSOP, PokerStars, and BetMGM Poker, would benefit from it. West Virginia and Connecticut are currently the only two states that have regulated online poker, but there are no live operators providing services in the state. With a real interstate poker network starting to shape up, both markets will likely become much more appealing, so we will probably see some significant developments in these states in the near future.
The term multi-state poker refers to a network of licensed and regulated online poker sites in the US that offer their services across state lines. This means that players from Nevada can play with players from New Jersey, for example.
Interstate poker is an important issue in the US because online poker is regulated at the state level, so licenses are only issued to operators within a particular state. For player pools to be combined, there needs to be a special agreement in place between states.
The term can technically refer to two things. Originally MSIGA stood for the Multi-state Internet Gaming Agreement. This was the first interstate gambling agreement that allowed for online poker player pools to be combined across state lines. The agreement was initially signed between Nevada and Delaware, and New Jersey joined a few years later. Then, in 2022, Michigan became the fourth member of the compact.
However, it can also refer to the Multi-state Internet Gaming Association, which consists of the states in the agreement. Either way, the term is directly connected to shared liquidity between regulated states.
As of right now, the MSIGA has four members: Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, and Michigan. With legal obstacles out of the way, other states with regulated online poker, like Pennsylvania and West Virginia, will likely look to join the agreement.
No! The term multi-state poker refers only to US states sharing their player pools. The states cannot legally sign such agreements with other countries in Europe or anywhere else in the world.
No! Multi-state agreements can only be signed between states in the US. It is not possible for any US state to sign a player sharing agreement with the UK or any other ROW country for that matter.
No, at least not before California passes its own online poker regulation. Before a state can join a multi-state poker agreement, it first needs to regulate online poker and license operators on the state level. When that happens in California, the state can decide if it wants to join the MSIGA (or a different interstate compact), which would allow those operators licensed in California to combine player pools with other states in the agreement, provided they also have a presence in those other markets.
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