Legislation that would allow upcoming real-money online poker sites in Michigan to pool players with their sites in other regulated U.S. states is now on the books.
The bill, SB 991, was presented to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Dec. 22. She approved it on Dec. 29. The legislation cleared the Senate in October by a 36-1 vote. The House passed it in December by a 85-16 vote.
The legislature’s website was updated this week to reflect the signature that came during the holidays.
The House declined to give the bill what is known as “immediate effect.” So it becomes effective in about 90 days, rather than immediately like the Senate wanted.
No hiccups for the legislative correction
It was smooth sailing for the legislation after the state legalized online casino-style gambling in 2019.
Backers of the legislation said it was to fix an accidental omission in the 2019 online casino gambling bill, which at one point contained interstate online poker provisions. Online poker geo-fenced to a jurisdiction with a population like Michigan’s is a subpar product.
In order to become an attractive activity for the poker player, an online poker site needs a robust player pool. New Jersey, which has had online poker for about six years now, has shown this month after month. It’s expected that New Jersey and Pennsylvania will eventually strike an online poker liquidity sharing deal.
Michigan is expected to see its first online gambling platforms launch later this month, but it’s unclear if poker will be part of the initial rollout for any operator. It’s likely that PokerStars Michigan, owned by the parent company of FanDuel Casino, would be first to hit cyberspace in the Wolverine State.
The interstate online poker legislation in Michigan doesn’t require the state gaming board to enter into deals. It gives them the option to do so.
Those deals take time. It’s unclear if Michigan will have online poker liquidity sharing in 2021.
It’s also unclear if the Michigan Gaming Control Board would have started work on interstate online poker agreements between now and the spring had the bill been given immediate effect. At any rate, Michigan should have online poker with liquidity with at least one other U.S. state sooner rather than later.
BetMGM Casino, which offers online poker in Michigan, believes that within a decade there will be a nationwide online poker market. The state of Michigan is only one of a handful to legalize online poker thus far, and so it will be a crucial state in this process.