Poker players in the state of Pennsylvania were celebrating last week as, after two years of waiting, PokerStars PA finally went live ushering in a new era of legalized, regulated online poker.
It could have been Michigan that was celebrating this week and it nearly was.
It was less than one year ago that the online poker community anticipated the return of online poker when, for a brief moment, Michigan became the fifth state of pass a bill that legalized online poker. The last step that needed to happen was for outgoing Republican Governor Rick Snyder to sign the bill. However, in a surprise move, Snyder vetoed the bill as one of his last acts in office, sending the notion of regulated online poker back to the drawing board.
Last week, as we previously reported, the Michigan House of Representatives passed a new pair of bills that, if signed into law, will legalize and regulate both online casino games, like online poker, as well as online/mobile sports betting.
Should the bill get signed into law, a state as large as Michigan could become a vital piece to the U.S. online poker landscape.
The second largest state
Michigan boasts a population of nearly 10 mm which would make it the second largest state of those currently with online poker legislation, which include Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware, and West Virginia.
By itself, Michigan would not make for a decent online poker ecosystem. As demonstrated back in 2018, those who support online gaming in Michigan also seemingly support the notion of allowing their players to join New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware in the current multi-state agreement that allows for the sharing of player pools.
If a state like Michigan joined that pact, it would be a massive boost for the state of U.S. online poker by nearly doubling the potential player pool.
Of course, the same could be said for Pennsylvania. With a population of nearly 13 mm, the Keystone State has roughly 4 mm more potential players than New Jersey, which sits with just under 9 mm residents. A one-two punch of Pennsylvania and Michigan would allow for online operators, such as PokerStars and WSOP.com, to expand their offerings with regards to game selection and increased tournament guarantees across their growing networks.
At some point in the future, Pennsylvania will open its borders and join the player pool, there is no timetable for it as of now. With Michigan included, the total population that would have legislation that would allow for online poker would be more than 37 mm.
Online poker coming to Michigan would also be a boost for the live poker scene. The Great Lakes State already has a robust live poker scene, one from which World Series of Poker Main
Event champions Ryan Riess and Joe Cada have emerged.
Assuming that in Michigan online poker operators would need to partner with a live poker room, there would be plenty of opportunity. According to Poker Atlas, Michigan currently has over 40 card rooms, which include charity poker rooms.
Caesars Entertainment, parent of WSOP.com, would quickly find an in-house partnership with another one of their properties, Caesars Windsor. The MGM Grand Detroit would be able to connect with playMGM, which has an online site up and running in New Jersey. Other larger card rooms that would be ripe for an online poker/casino partnership include Hollywood Casino Toledo and the Motor City Casino in Detroit.
The majority of the poker rooms in the state are smaller rooms that hold fewer than 10 tables. Despite being smaller in size, that could make them an opportune place for an online operator
without a current affiliation to strike up partnership. In Pennsylvania, online poker giant PokerStars made a deal with Mount Airy Casino Resort, a card room that holds just 12 tables.
Taxes May Get In The Way
The impact of online poker coming to Michigan may all be null and void if lawmakers cannot agree on the tax rate. Gov. Whitmer is eager for a higher tax rate and even though lawmakers increased the proposed rates in amendments made to the bill, it’s thought to not be enough for Whitmer, who is likely shoot the bills down.
If that happens, House Representative Brandt Iden, a sponsor of the legislation, has said he will attempt to override the veto.