Michigan Gaming Control Board Cracks Down on Sweepstakes Casinos

The state gaming regulator issues cease-and-desist letters to several major sweepstakes operators in late 2023, forcing them to shut down their Michigan-facing operations in perpetuity.
Michigan Gaming Control Board Cracks Down on Sweepstakes Casinos
January 23, 2024

The legal situation of online gambling across the USA remains divided, with different states having different laws pertaining to various forms of internet gambling.

While the state of Michigan offers legal online sports betting, casino games, and poker, only operators with a license by the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) are legally allowed to offer their services to Michiganders.

In a recent announcement, MGCB revealed that it has issued cease-and-desist letters to Stake.us, Global Poker, and PredictionStrike, all companies offering forms of online gambling in Michigan without the appropriate licenses.

While the exact legal definitions for all three of these sites remain blurry, and the sites are allowed to operate even in many states that don’t offer any legal gambling, all three received such letters from MGCB in late 2023 and have reportedly taken steps to prevent Michigan players from playing on their platforms.

Legal Status of Sweepstakes Casinos & Fantasy Sports Betting Platforms

Sweepstakes casinos have become increasingly popular in the US over the last few years, as they offer the only opportunity to play casino games and poker online for millions of Americans.

These platforms, like Global Poker and Stake.us, use a sweepstakes model to allow players to play casino games or poker and win tokens that may be redeemed for real money prizes. However, they don’t offer real money gambling, and are thus not in violation of laws against internet gambling in most states.

While players from more than 40 states play freely on such platforms, Michiganders may soon find themselves barred from social/sweepstakes casinos, as the companies behind them do their best to avoid legal problems.

In a cease-and-desist letter sent in November 2023, MGCB alleged that Stake.us engaged in promoting an unlicensed online lottery and/or raffle for customers that buy its products through its internet website,” and similar wording was used to describe the actions of Global Poker owner Virtual Gaming Worlds (VGW), based in Australia.

PredictionStrike, on the other hand, is based in New York and is a fantasy sports betting platform that offers a service that is technically not classified as gambling, and operates more like a stock exchange than a betting site.

MGCB’s letter, sent in October last year, claimed the operator had offered “internet gaming and internet sports betting in Michigan without being licensed in the state as an internet gaming operator and a sports betting operator.”

Are Sweepstakes Operators Leaving Michigan?

Following the cease-and-desist letters sent by MGCB last year, the sweepstakes operators in questions have apparently taken steps to leave the Michigan market.

According to pokerfuse, VGW was the first to take a step back from the MI market, preventing Michigan players from purchasing further Gold Coins as of November 1, 2023, and discontinuing their ability to play on the platform as of December 1, 2023.

With the company that operators Global Poker and Chumba Casino now officially out of Michigan, it is only a matter of time before other operators follow in its footsteps, as taking the cautious route in this case is likely the best option for them.

While this is unfortunate news for many Michiganders who enjoyed playing on the platforms, the good news is that a number of perfectly legal and licensed operators that offer Michigan online casino and online poker fully within the confines of the laws and regulations in place, providing the alternative that many other Americans don’t have access to.

Sites like PokerStars and BetMGM all offer sports betting, casino and poker for real money, and are licensed and regulated by the MGCB.

If you or someone you know has a gambling problem and wants help, call the Virginia Council on Problem Gambling (VACPG) helpline at 1-888-532-3500

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