Exclusive: An Interstate Compact for Online Poker in Michigan is Looming

The Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) posted guidance for operators and platform providers on steps they must take before the state joins a multi-state gambling agreement like the MSIGA.
An abstract sculpture is seen in a plaza in downtown Detroit at night with buildings lit up around it. Michigan online poker is heading towards shared liquidity. Here's what we know so far about operator guidelines for multi-state poker in Michigan.
By
March 22, 2022

In a clear sign that Michigan intends to either form or join an interstate gaming compact for online poker, the state’s regulator posted guidance to its website last week outlining specific actions that operators must take before it authorizes multistate poker. Records show the regulator notified operators of the document the same day it was posted.

The Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) posted a five-page guidance document on March 16, outlining the potential tasks and considerations operators and platform providers must take before the MGCB enters into a multijurisdictional agreement for poker.

MGCB spokeswoman Mary Kay Bean told Michigan Gaming Review that a letter “was sent to operators and platform providers” on March 16. The letter included “a link to the [guidance] information.”

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Multi-State Online Poker in Michigan: A Three-Step Process

According to the guidance document, an operator or platform provider may not launch multi-state poker until a three-step process is completed:

  1. The MGCB enters into a multijurisdictional agreement and the agreement is in effect
  2. The operator, platform provider, and any other third parties receive all necessary licenses and approvals from the MGCB
  3. The MGCB expressly authorizes the operator or platform provider to launch multistate poker

“This document is meant to provide guidance regarding tasks an operator or platform provider may need to complete and other items an operator or platform provider may need to consider before the board will authorize the commencement of multi-state poker,” the MGCB said. “The extent to which these tasks and considerations will apply, if at all, will depend on the nature of each operator’s or platform provider’s multistate poker operation.”

The MGCB identified several potential scenarios for operators and platform providers in the wake of interstate poker.

For operators that decide to launch interstate poker but aren’t currently offering it in Michigan, the regulator said a launch “could be done via a partnership with a new platform provider, via a new platform provided by an operator’s existing platform provider, or as a new game or remote gaming system (RGS) added to an existing platform.”

Operators that currently offer online poker in Michigan — currently, just BetMGM Poker MI and PokerStars MI — “may introduce a new platform in Michigan to support multi-state poker or may migrate its entire poker operation to a platform located in another state (e.g., New Jersey).” The mention of New Jersey could be telling, as it is one of three states that are signatories of the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement aka MSIGA — a multijurisdictional online poker agreement that includes Delaware, New Jersey, and Nevada.

An operator or platform provider may opt to continue using its current platform while connecting to poker platforms in other states through an RGS, either in Michigan or another state. The MGCB also said an operator or platform provider “may submit new game software or may conduct multistate poker using game software that is already approved by the board.”

“The specifics of each multi-state poker operation — system architecture, operational methodology, sufficiency of current licenses and approvals, etc. — will dictate the applicability of various tasks and considerations and the overall path to launch authorization,” the MGCB said.

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Other Details Regarding Multi-State Online Poker in Michigan

The guidance stipulates that any multi-jurisdictional agreement “must not include internet games other than poker.”

It also addresses several topics, including supplier and occupational licensing, platform modifications, and geofencing. Under the platform modifications section, the MGCB warns that if the state enters into an interstate compact, operators may need to modify their platforms.

“These may include, without limitation, integration with new systems, activation of new games, modifications to technical security controls, establishment of new test accounts, updates to information provided to authorized participants, configuration changes, modifications to ensure multistate poker activity is properly reflected in account statements, updating of reporting capabilities, etc.,” the agency said.

“Some modifications may require ITL [Independent Test Laboratory] testing, while others may only require notification to the board.”

Operators and platform providers would also need MGCB approval if servers that would handle wagers are set up outside the state. Live multi-state poker games and tournaments would also need to be approved by the board.

Previously, the MGCB and Governor Gretchen Whitmer were reportedly at odds over who should sign a multijurisdictional agreement like the MSIGA on behalf of Michigan.

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