I am happy to announce Michigan has joined the multi-state poker compact, and much of the increased tax revenue from multi-state poker will go to support K-12 education in Michigan.It’s official.
One year after state lawmakers drew up legislation allowing it to do so, and after months of anticipation, Michigan has officially joined the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA).
With the addition of the Wolverine State and its 10.1 million residents, MSIGA’s combined player pool balloons to 23.5 million people. That means increased liquidity to support Michigan online poker. Players in Michigan will soon be able to play against players in the compact’s other states: Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey.
“I am happy to announce Michigan has joined the multi-state poker compact, and much of the increased tax revenue from multi-state poker will go to support K-12 education in Michigan,” Henry Williams, executive director of the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB), said in an announcement Monday. “By joining, Michigan will almost double the potential pool of participants in multistate poker games.”
After nearly six months of consideration in 2020, Michigan lawmakers passed SB 991 in mid-December of that year. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-East Lansing), included language that said the MGCB could enter agreements like MSIGA for multijurisdictional poker. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed the bill just before the end of 2020.
“Michigan poker players will enjoy more options and will likely play for bigger money when they can compete against players from other states,” Hertel said. “I am glad we were able to make this possible for Michigan poker players.”
Operators Have Some Work to Do Before Launching Interstate Poker
Before Michigan’s three online poker operators — BetMGM Poker MI, PokerStars MI, and WSOP MI — can let their Michigan players join others playing on their networks in Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey, they must complete several tasks to obtain authorization from the MGCB. The tasks were articulated in a five-page guidance document that the regulator released in March.
The requirements are that the operators:
- Meet all of the conditions and requirements outlined in the MSIGA agreement
- Receive approval from the MGCB for any new platforms or platform modifications, as well as any new remote gaming systems and game software
- Have their technical security standards reviewed and an inspection performed for new data centers
The MGCB must make sure Michigan residents are protected when they play multistate poker, and we will apply the same rigor to review the new offering as we have other internet games.On the third point, the MGCB must give written approval for servers capable of receiving bets placed outside of Michigan.
Any new suppliers, including platform providers, that are expected to play a role in offering multi-state poker must obtain internet gaming supplier licenses, the MGCB said. New vendors may also be required to register with the regulator. New operator or platform provider employees involved with multi-state poker may also need to obtain occupational licenses, according to the MGCB.
“The operators still have work to do before Michigan residents may join multistate poker games,” Williams said. “The MGCB must make sure Michigan residents are protected when they play multistate poker, and we will apply the same rigor to review the new offering as we have other internet games.”
How long the regulatory process will take is unclear — the MGCB could conduct its review of the operators one at a time, or it could do them all simultaneously. During an April interview, MGCB spokeswoman Mary Kay Bean declined to comment on how long the agency anticipates the approval process will take.
“More States” Could Join MSIGA, But Pennsylvania’s Path is Clearer
Monday’s announcement by the MGCB included the statement that, while MSIGA currently has four states, “it is possible more states may join.”
Three other US states currently have legalized online poker but are not members of MSIGA — Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Of the three, only Pennsylvania currently offers online poker — the other states have no operators at this time.
Pennsylvania is frequently mentioned as a possible MSIGA member, and it would be a big one — it is the fifth-largest state in terms of population, with nearly 13 million residents. If the Keystone State joins the compact, the player pool could reach 42.5 million.
Last month, the Press Secretary for Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf told Pennsylvania Gaming Review that the governor is monitoring the compact’s expansion and is reviewing the MSIGA agreement. It’s not clear if Wolf, who is term-limited, would make a decision before he leaves office in 2023 or will leave it to his successor.
Tougher Journey for Connecticut and West Virginia to Join
With their small populations, Connecticut and West Virginia — at 3.6 million and 1.8 million, respectively — face longer odds of joining MSIGA any time soon. They first need operators. One big reason they don’t have any is their population size.
Although Connecticut legalized online poker in May 2021, its gaming laws don’t include language that would allow the state to join a compact like MSIGA. Last year, the state’s two tribal casinos decided to partner with DraftKings and FanDuel — two operators that don’t have a poker platform.
And while Flutter announced an innovative partnership announced last month in Ontario where its PokerStars brand would offer online poker and casino gaming in the province while FanDuel would offer sports betting, the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection has said that the state’s gaming laws also do not allow such an arrangement in that state.
The West Virginia Lottery Commission (WVLC) revealed last summer that it was interested in joining a compact like MSIGA for poker.