Welcome to our detailed read of the Michigan online poker and gambling industries. Here’s what you need to know all in one place. One question must be way up on your mind: Is gambling legal in Michigan?
Gambling is legal but online poker is not regulated. There are many regulated alternatives for players who want to gamble legally which began in the early 20th century with horse racing followed decades later by the state lottery and laws that governed and allowed for charitable gambling. Today, players can enjoy a range of activities, including:
- State lotteries;
- Tribal gambling;
- Land-based casinos;
- Pari-mutuel betting.
No doubt, you are here to find out more about the prospects of Michigan legalizing its online poker industry. Great, because we have covered all relevant and important developments to date.
Let’s dive right in.
Can Players from Michigan Play Online Poker?
Yes! Even though it’s illegal to host online poker in Michigan, it is still not explicitly illegal to play on legal sites as a player from Michigan as long as the websites known as ‘offshore’ poker sites have the reputation and the community’s approval.
Most sites will accept US players but be sure to check if the online poker site you’re playing from accepts Michigan players as some specifically do not.
You can find a complete list with our expert reviews focusing on the US-facing online card rooms for Michigan.
Michigan Gambling Laws
Michigan is one of the more difficult states to make a judgment call on whether online poker will be regulated. On the one hand, regulated gambling has and—in our opinion—will always have a prolific presence in the gambling community. We have noticed quite a bit in the way of discussion from the MI state and senate. Still, the outlook on the online poker and iGaming industries is a bit of a challenge to pinpoint. We do know quite a bit:
- The state began to actively push for online gambling in 2016;
- Four individual bills came in 2017;
- A Senator-sponsored bill made it to the Governor’s office in December, 2018;
- Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed the bill;
- Mr. Snyder was succeeded by Democrat Gretchen Whitmer.
With sufficient historic evidence to give us a better idea of the road that Michigan has walked so far, we can help you understand the current legal context better. The most pertinent legislative attempts date back to 2016, which is a big relief and makes things really simple to follow.
Michigan Online Poker Legalization Efforts in 2016 and 2017
Michigan did try to push into online gambling in both 2016 and 2017 and almost succeeded in 2018. As a place where tribal casinos command significant influence, you must have guessed that introducing online competition would be a tough sell. This didn’t stop Senator Mike Kowall, though.
Most plans to legalize the industry have included an attempt to pacify the tribes and give them a reason to work together with any business that wants to expand online. That made the bulk of legislative efforts in 2016-2017, but it mostly failed. Mr. Kowall’s own bill dubbed “The Lawful Internet Gaming Act” SB 889 has been one of the chief drivers of progress.
Why Did the 2016 Legal Push Fail?
Mr. Kowall’s plan was quite ambitious and conciliatory. It offered tribal compacts an opportunity to expand into new territories.
The tribes are not willing to switch up a winning formula so easily, let alone open the sluice gates of what could potentially be overwhelming competition with years of experience running online poker rooms.
Hence, there were several issues highlighted by opposing factions:
- SB 889’s violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act statures (IGRA);
- The bill wasn’t aligned with the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIEGA);
- Kowall’s bill couldn’t consolidate state and federal Indian laws.
There was also a fear at the time among commercial casinos that if the regulatory wrinkles weren’t ironed out, that could potentially give tribal compacts a free pass from taxation, making for an unfair competitive advantage.
At the time, even the established land-based giants didn’t muster up much support for Mr. Kowall’s proposal, taking back seat. These casinos included:
- MGM Grand Detroit;
- MotorCity Casino;
Michigan Online Poker Efforts in 2017
By mid-2017, there was quite a bit of development as far as MI online poker and iGaming went. Four bills were introduced, including: S 202, S 203, S 204, S 205. The bills didn’t get the necessary support, but Mr. Kowall was once again the man in the spotlight, backing both S 203 and S 204, which he co-sponsored with several high-ranking political figures, including:
- Rick Jones;
- Rebekah Warren;
- Marty Knollenberg;
- Curtis Hertel.
It wasn’t until late in September that we saw the first glimmer of a promising initiative. In September, 2017, when Rep. Brandt Iden. Once again, Mr. Kowall had to come to the rescue and he re-introduced a slightly touched-up version of H 4926, Iden’s original proposal.
This all set up the legal context for 2018.
Online Legal Gambling Is All Systems Go Minus a Signature
In December, 2018, H 4926 finally cleared the last legal hurdle and was sent for the much-needed governmental approval. It was here that the promising bill that some have dubbed “model tribal gambling bill” would hit a snag, with Gov. Rick Snyder vetoing the effort, and arguing against the online expansion in Michigan. He cited both online poker and iGaming as reasons why he wouldn’t give his support for the proposal.
Michigan’s now former Gov. Rick Snyder. The man who shut down H 4926 .
Mr. Snyder’s decision was most dispiriting in the grand scheme of things, as H 4926 had managed to appease a diverse crowd of politicians, businesses and tribal representative, making it one of the most significant milestones in the history of the state.
Potential Benefits from Legalizing Online Poker in Michigan
Online poker in Michigan will be just one small part of the overall push to grow online gaming in the state, but even then, license fees paired with taxation can bring in significant revenue for the state.
Fees often vary in such matters. H 4926 was proposing between $100,000 and $200,000. In other states, a single license can reach $4 million per segment. Michigan is in fact the 5th and latest state to actively seek the adopting of online poker, too, following PA.
Michigan’s Curious Poker Offenses
The reason we’ve put Michigan on the list of upcoming poker states though still applies, as based on their current regulated gambling scene we view Michigan as a likely candidate to follow suit if some of the other US states near the brink of regulation start to legally welcome online poker as well.
There is quite a controversial subject our experts were quite astounded by. According to Michigan’s statutes Section 750.314, players are treading a fine line between a misdemeanor and an actual jail depending on their winnings; with anything less than $50 resulting in the former while the big $50+ winners potentially facing time in prison.
To add to the already bizarre rules, if players lose, not only will they not face prison time but by hosting a loser, that host or “winner” is liable to be sued by the loser in order to have the loser’s losses regained.
How Can the Wire Act Affect Michigan in 2019?
Michigan’s gaming momentum has been undoubtedly killed. Online poker would be a tougher sell when it comes to 2019. With Mr. Snyder now gone, his successor, Democrat Gretchen Whitmer is the state’s next best hope.
However, the latest DOJ Opinion targeting the Wire Act promises some unseemly upsets. For once, it targets all inter-state gaming, which means that even if online poker was legalized in Michigan, the state may not be able to qualify for the shared liquidity imitative re-uniting four other states.
Worse, one such upset might actually undo the entire progress that has been achieved so far across the United States. As to Michigan specifically, if the WA is finally enforced in June, 2019, this could mean no online poker for a fair while.
Online Poker and Online Gambling in Michigan
Although Michigan residents cannot regulate or host online poker games, residents are legally still allowed to play offshore sites providing it is hosted licensed legally in its respective country and state/region. Even recently we have seen zero regulated online gambling sites regulated by Michigan.
Poker Tournaments Michigan
Poker Atlas provides Michigan players with great way to find poker action.
As far as databases go, Michigan is lucky enough to have one of the world’s leading authorities on Poker Rooms – Poker Atlas on hand for direct, up to date information on land-based and online poker rooms in Michigan which of course includes the very excellent ‘Upcoming Tournaments’ section for Detroit & Toledo, Lower Peninsula MI and Upper Peninsula MI.
Poker Lotto Michigan
Similarly to players looking for poker tournaments in Michigan, players looking for the Poker lotto will find players on the forum setting up poker lottos and similar occasions in the ‘Special Events’ section. There are also fantastic resources such as the Michigan Lottery.