MI Regulator Tells Operators That It Hopes to Join MSIGA “Soon”

Delaware, New Jersey, & Nevada regulators stay tight-lipped over status of Michigan’s online poker compact application & the changes it requested.
a snowy michigan lighthouse is seen on a frozen lake in winter. MI Regulator Tells Operators That It Hopes to Join MSIGA "Soon" What we know (and don't know) about Michigan's movement towards joining an interstate online poker compact.
By
March 24, 2022

MGCB has initiated discussions with other states and hopes Michigan can join the MSIGA soon. The state regulator said it is hopeful that it will be able to join an interstate gaming compact for Michigan online poker “soon,” but also said it was waiting to hear from the other three states in the compact on the status of its application to join.

The Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) said it has been in discussions with regulators in Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey on joining the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA).

After nearly a year of declining to say whether Michigan had applied to join the MSIGA or was instead considering launching a rival interstate compact — perhaps with Pennsylvania or other states — the MGCB confirmed this week that it did indeed have plans for getting into the MSIGA.

MGCB has initiated discussions with other states and hopes Michigan can join the MSIGA soon,” the regulator said, in a letter to operators and platform providers dated March 16. It also urged parties “interested in offering multistate poker to review the attached list and consider which identified tasks and other items may apply to your organization.”

There is currently no time frame for Michigan to join the MSIGA.

The letter included a link to a five-page guidance document, posted on the same day, outlining specific actions Michigan operators must take before it authorizes multistate poker.

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States Mum on Michigan’s MSIGA Application

MGCB spokeswoman Mary Kay Bean told Michigan Gaming Review on Tuesday that the agency “has not received notification from the current compact states regarding our application’s status.” She referred any further questions about the MSIGA to officials with the Delaware Division of Gaming Enforcement (DDGE), the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB), and the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE).

A spokesman for the DDGE said he referred to questions about Michigan’s MSIGA application to the Delaware Lottery, explaining that “since it’s an internet gaming agreement for online poker,” it falls under the purview of the Lottery. In Nevada, a spokesman for the NGCB said he would “look into this and see what we can comment on in terms of where Nevada is in this process,” but had not returned any comments by Wednesday evening.

Spokespeople for the NJDGE did not return messages seeking comment. They also declined to answer similar questions about Michigan’s application in early February, when Bean confirmed that Michigan had asked to join in 2021 and had “submitted some suggested changes based on the requirements of our law.” She did not specify what changes were requested.

Those “suggested changes” could be holding up the show, particularly in New Jersey. That’s because the only two poker operators in Michigan — BetMGM Poker MI and PokerStars MI — are both active in the Garden State, but neither are in Delaware or Nevada. WSOP is the only online poker operator authorized in Nevada, and three racinos in Delaware are the only properties authorized for poker in that state. The racinos each have a skin powered by 888.

Nevada is unlikely to allow PokerStars to operate there. It considers the operator a “bad actor” for offering online poker in Nevada prior to the Black Friday crackdown in 2011. Lawmakers in Nevada passed a bill in 2013, AB 114, that prohibits issuing an interactive gaming license for five years to operators that offered online gaming after 2006.

To date, PokerStars has not re-applied for licensure with the NGCB and the regulator has not said whether the operator is welcome to do so.

BetMGM is rumored to be considering launching an online poker product in Nevada, but the exact timing of a launch in the Silver State is not known.

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Hopes for Multiple Michigan Online Poker Operators to Participate

The information we shared with operators and platform providers allows them to do some advance work such as writing internal controls. Michigan appears to be trying to avoid a situation that New Jersey found itself in when it joined the MSIGA in October 2017.

At that time, with PokerStars blocked in Nevada and Delaware a closed market, WSOP NJ became the only operator in New Jersey to reap the benefits of the state’s membership in the MSIGA. For more than four years, WSOP has been able to share a player pool and liquidity with Nevada, thanks to the MSIGA.

In its guidance, the MGCB said operators and platform providers “must comply with applicable requirements in each other jurisdiction in which it offers or conducts multistate poker.” The regulator did not offer a time frame for when it hoped multijurisdictional poker would begin.

Jeff Ifrah, of Ifrah Law PLLC, said he thinks the MGCB “wants to make sure that such an opportunity can be made available to a majority of their poker licensees, not just one or two as the case may have been in the past.” He clarified that he was talking about what happened to New Jersey in 2017.

Ifrah also indicated that he agreed with the sentiment that Michigan officials were no longer wary that joining an interstate gaming compact like the MSIGA meant the state was running afoul of federal law, especially the Wire Act, which is still tied up in legislation seeking clarity from the DOJ.

When asked if multistate poker would be a coordinated launch or if each operator would be approved by the MGCB piecemeal as they complete the regulator’s requirements, Bean called the question “very premature,” since Michigan’s application had not yet been accepted.

“The information we shared with operators and platform providers allows them to do some advance work such as writing internal controls,” Bean said. She added that operators “may offer poker via an internet casino gaming platform or a poker-only platform.”

Out With the Old and In With the New?

While Michigan currently has 14 licensed operators for online poker, casino gaming, and sports betting, one operator, TwinSpires MI, announced earlier this month that it plans to exit the Great Lakes State by the end of August. TwinSpires will also exit Pennsylvania, a state also rumored to be considering joining the MSIGA — although a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) told Michigan Gaming Review that there were no updates on such plans.

Barring an arrangement that stipulates otherwise, one potential operator that could take TwinSpires’ soon-to-be-former spot and offer online poker in Michigan is partypoker, which currently offers it in New Jersey under the Borgata license. The brand was previously thought to go live in the state in the first half of 2021.

Bet365, a UK-based gaming giant that offers poker across Europe and was awarded an internet gaming license in the neighboring Canadian province of Ontario could also be interested in launching in Michigan.

Another possibility would be for BetRivers to offer online poker. Earlier this month, the brand’s parent, Rush Street Interactive (RSI), acquired Run It Once Poker (RIO) in a cash-and-stock deal valued at $5.8 million. Although RSI hasn’t announced any plans, it was one of eight operators identified by pokerfuse in January as a potential suitor for a future RIO relaunch in the US.

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