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Learn about gambling in Michigan


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. Or at least it wasn’t until December 20 when Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed House Bills 4311-12, 4916-18, 4307 and 4308 into law. As a result, the Lawful Internet Gaming Act has been introduced.

Date of legalization12-20-2019
Online populationN/A
Legal age to play online poker21
Who signed online poker into lawGovernor Gretchen Whitmer
Online poker bill IDHouse Bill 4311
Online poker sites that accept players from Michigan:
  1. BetOnline Poker
  2. Americas Cardroom
  3. Intertops Poker

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Michigan State Flag
US State, abbreviated “MI
Not Regulated
  • Population: 9.91 million
  • Legal Online Poker Age: 18
  • Legal Poker Room Age: 18-21
  • Capital: Lansing
  • Governor: Rick Snyder (R)

While we are waiting for the state to launch online poker officially, 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. While you are at it, though, keep your eyes open for the upcoming legal poker card rooms in Michigan in 2020 or 2021.

Michigan Gambling Laws

Michigan used to be one of the more difficult states to make a judgment call whether online poker would be regulated, mostly because Governor Whitmer wasn’t quite eager on endorsing gambling. In fact, her predecessor, former MI Governor Rick Snyder vetoed House Bills 4926, 4927, and 4928 in December 2018.

On the one hand, regulated gambling has and—in our opinion—will always have a prolific presence in the gambling community. With Whitmer’s latest approval, though, the guesswork is done and we are onto a course to roll out online poker with Michigan being the sixth state to do so.  The other states to have legalized online poker include:

  • New Jersey
  • Nevada
  • Delaware
  • Pennsylvania
  • West Virginia
  • Michigan

We have noticed quite a bit in the way of discussion from the MI House and Senate, and a year after the veto, it has all paid off. 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 December2018;
  • Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed the bill;
  • Mr. Snyder was succeeded by Democrat Gretchen Whitmer;
  • Gov. Whitmer legalizes online poker on December 20, 2019

With sufficient historic evidence to give us a better idea of the road that Michigan has walked so far, we can help you follow the evolution of online poker legislation in the state. The most pertinent legislative attempts date back to 2016, which is a big relief and makes things really simple to follow.

Legalizing Poker in Michigan 2018 & 2019

Legalization efforts reached a peak in December, 2018 when lawmakers thought they had a chance to legalize online poker. Yet, the outgoing Governor Rick Snyder decided to veto the proposed trinity of House Bills and send them back for revision.

Things did pick up in December, 2019, after lawmakers finally struck a chord with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer who expressed a cautious approval for the bill. Yet, publicly she motivated her decision to endorse online poker as a potential source of revenue for the state:

My top priority in signing this legislation was protecting and investing in the School Aid Fund because our students deserve leaders who put their education first. Thanks in part to the hard work and leadership of Senator Hertel and Representative Warren, these bills will put more dollars in Michigan classrooms and increase funding for firefighters battling cancer. This is a real bipartisan win for our state.

Legalizing online poker in Michigan was clearly a bipartisan effort and it could have not come to fruition without endorsement from both political spectrums. Prominent lawmakers supporting the move included Democratic party members Senator Curtis Hertel Jr. and Representative Rebekah Warren.

They were joined by Republican Representative Brandt Iden. Iden had been one of the most vociferous proponents of the legislation, negotiating with lawmakers for years now. He was then joined by Sen. Hertel who mediated the issue with Rep. Warren and managed to come up with a united front.

It has all paid off because the Senate passed the bills with 35-to-3 support in favor of legalizing online poker.

What’s SB 889? State Senator Mike Kowall proposed in SB 889 in a bid to expand Michigan’s gambling industry online, including online poker. His bill would have allowed tribal and land-based casinos to apply for a license and bring their offer online. A $5 million licensing fee with 10% tax on GGR was outlined in the bill.
Michigan Senate

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;
  • Greektow.

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 202S 203S 204S 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.

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 Snydervetoing 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 Governor Rick Snyder
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.

This was then – in 2018, now we have the definitive piece of legislation for online gambling in Michigan and all three Detroit casinos and 23 tribal operators can take full advantage. Presently, would-be applicants will have to:

  • Pay a $50,000 application fee
  • Contribute a $100,000 licensing fee if approved
  • Meet a $50,000 renewal fee every year

The rate will vary based on the gross gaming revenue (GGR) generated by individual operators, and specifically:

  • 20% tax on earnings up to $4 million
  • 22% tax on earnings between $4 million and $8 million
  • 24% tax on earnings between $8 million and $10 million
  • 26% tax on earnings between $10 million and $12 million
  • 28% tax on earnings over and above $12 million

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.

What Is the Minimum Age to Legally Gamble in Michigan? Depending on the gambling activity itself, players must be at least 18-21 to gamble real money in a land-based casino or poker room (see your local gambling activity for specifics). Players must be 18 to participate in Online Gambling.

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.

Revised Wire Act

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 Michigan Card Room
Poker Atlas provides Michigan players with great way to find poker action.

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.

Keep in Mind We are not legal professionals so be sure to educate yourself on responsible gambling and consult a lawyer where necessary in applicable matters, using this page only as an opinionated guide.
Adam, our resident poker guru, has extensive knowledge on both sides of the table. When he’s not playing online, you’ll find him busy revising strategies to give him an edge over his competitors, which he’ll happily share with you all.