Legal online poker became a reality in Michigan near the end of 2019 with the passage of a bill formally legalizing the activity and establishing a regulatory regime to oversee the industry.
Michigan online poker is set to launch sometime in early 2021 according to estimates from the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB). Currently, the MGCB is drawing up regulations and establishing a licensing process that will allow operators to apply for approval to serve customers across the state.
Online poker was legalized in Michigan as part of a large online gaming package that also approved mobile sports betting, online casinos and daily fantasy sports. Once the law fully takes effect, Michiganders will have access to a full spectrum of legal and regulated online gaming options.
We will discuss the current lay of the land below, but here are the key things to know ahead of online poker launching in Michigan:
- Online poker is legal for customers 21 and older
- Customers do not need to be residents of Michigan but do need to be within state lines to play online
- Licensed poker sites will verify the age, identity and location of every player
- The Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) will regulate online poker
Legal Michigan Poker Sites
Online poker was legalized in Michigan with the passage of the Lawful Internet Gaming Act, which also legalized online casinos. Under the law, each of Michigan’s 23 tribal casinos and three commercial casinos in Detroit may apply for licenses from the MGCB to launch online poker sites.
That means there are plenty of open slots for the world’s major online poker brands to enter the Michigan market. The largest such provider in the world, PokerStars, has already staked its claim in Michigan through a partnership with one of the state’s tribal casino operators.
Below, we look at the biggest online poker operators that have either confirmed they will be coming to Michigan or that may do so in the future.
Roughly two weeks after Michigan legalized online poker, PokerStars announced it will be providing its services to players across the state.
PokerStars parent company The Stars Group is partnered with the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians Gaming Authority to offer online poker, sports betting and casino games in Michigan.
The launch of PokerStars will be a win for Michigan players as it is one of the most recognized names in online poker, which should help with traffic. PokerStars is also home to a strong tournament scene and has a positive reputation in general among customers.
888 and WSOP
888 Poker and WSOP.com work closely together in the regulated US poker market and could very well seek to enter Michigan at some point, although nothing is confirmed as of today. WSOP.com and 888poker operate the All-American Poker Network, which ranks as the largest interstate poker network today in terms of traffic.
In New Jersey, WSOP and 888 top the charts in traffic and would likely perform well in Michigan. If Michigan ends up forming liquidity sharing agreements with other states, look for WSOP and 888 to make an entrance and grow the reach of the All-American Poker Network.
partypoker and BetMGM Poker
partypoker and BetMGM operate on the same platform powered by GVC Holdings, which is partnered with MGM Resorts International to pursue online gaming and sports betting opportunities in the US.
partypoker is already active in New Jersey and has confirmed plans to launch in Nevda and Pennsylvania over the near term. MGM Resorts International operates MGM Grand Detroit to easily secure market access. partypoker and BetMGM are both names to watch as the Michigan online poker market develops.
Michigan Online Poker Launch Date
The launch of the first poker sites in Michigan is largely in the hands of the MGCB and partially in the hands of individual operators. The MGCB estimates it will be ready to give the green light to online gaming and sports betting operators in early 2021 but does not provide a specific date.
The MGCB is now in the process of adopting the regulations that will govern online poker and gambling and believes the process will take about a year in total – starting from early 2020 and likely ending in Q1 2021.
Individual operators must also prepare by applying for licenses, finding partners among Michigan’s land-based casinos and ensuring they are able to comply with all local regulations.
Mobile Poker in Michigan
The mainstream poker operators that are likely to enter the Michigan market will bring mobile poker capabilities with them. PokerStars, for example, has confirmed it is coming to Michigan and already has the technology in place to offer mobile poker in other jurisdictions.
Online poker does not translate to mobile devices as handily as sports betting or casino games, but the nation’s major operators have come up with innovative solutions that make it easy to see what’s happening, to select bet sizes and even to play at multiple tables. Making the switch from desktop to mobile poker is not as jarring as one might imagine.
In other states, operators have released mobile poker apps for iPhone, Android and iPod touch devices. iPhone users are able to download real money poker apps from the App Store while Android users can visit each operator’s website to download the app directly (Google does not allow real money gaming apps on the Play Store).
As the first mobile poker sites launch in Michigan, we will update this page with information and additional instructions for getting started.
Michigan Poker Bonuses
Welcome bonuses and other promotions will likely play a large role in the marketing efforts of poker sites in Michigan. Even when PokerStars launched as the only authorized poker site in Pennsylvania, customers were able to sign up and claim a welcome bonus worth up to $600.
One of the nice things about online poker is bonuses tend to be easier to clear than promos offered by mobile sportsbooks and casinos. Clearing a poker bonus for withdrawal usually entails nothing more than playing poker as normal and generating rake as an active player.
In addition to other marketing promotions, we anticipate seeing Michigan poker bonuses come in two distinct flavors:
- Deposit Match Bonuses: Deposit bonuses offer additional cash to customers in return for signing up and playing, with the bonus amount determined by the size of the player’s first deposit. For example, a 100% up to $600 bonus would essentially double each player’s first deposit for up to $600 in bonus funds. The bonus may usually be withdrawn after the player has earned a certain number of VIP points by participating in cash games and tournaments.
- No-Deposit Bonuses: Registration bonuses give new customers a little cash for signing up and verifying their identities with no deposit required.
With a population of about 10 million, the Michigan online poker market should prove attractive to most operators. Michigan was the sixth US state to legalize online poker, following New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Michigan’s addition to the list of states with legal online poker provides a significant shot in the arm of the US online poker industry. Prior to Michigan joining the party, the states with legal online poker had a combined population of about 27.5 million. Michigan increases that by about a third in one fell swoop.
It is unclear if Michigan law is amenable to interstate poker compacts, which allow customers to play poker with one another across state lines in jurisdictions where online poker is legal. Michigan has a large enough population to support a small online poker industry on its own, but joining forces with other states will provide a major boost to in-state operators and the US industry as a whole.
Michigan Poker Law
The Lawful Internet Gaming Act of 2019 establishes the regulatory framework for online poker in Michigan and is complemented by additional regulations adopted by the MGCB.
Under the Lawful Internet Gaming Act, land-based casinos in Michigan may apply for licenses to offer online poker and other casino games.
Casinos that acquire online poker licenses may develop their own software platforms or partner with established brand names in order to leverage those companies’ expertise and name recognition.
Age and Identity Verification
Online poker sites are required by law to verify all players are at least 21 years of age and located within Michigan state lines when playing. Additionally, operators must ensure they restrict access to customers whose names appear on the responsible gambling database.
Poker sites must also verify the identity of each customer and take reasonable measures to prevent the unauthorized access of online gaming accounts and to detect fraud, money laundering and collusion.
Licensing Fees and Tax Rate
All online poker operators in Michigan are subject to licensing fees and taxes as follows.
Licensing fees include:
- $50,000 application fee
- $100,000 fee upon successful licensure
- $50,000 annual fee thereafter
Additionally, online gaming and poker licensees are subject to a graduated tax rate ranging from 20% to 28% of adjusted gross receipts.
The Act also outlines how tax money collected from online gaming operators is distributed to various state and municipal initiatives:
- 30% of tax revenue goes to the city in which the gaming operator’s casino is located to support: Job development in blighted neighborhoods, public safety programs such as EMTs and fire departments, anti-gang and youth development programs, other programs designed to improve the quality of life in that city, capital improvements, and road repairs and improvements
- 65% of tax revenue goes to Michigan’s general fund
- 5% goes to the Michigan agricultural equine industry development fund; any amount in excess of $3 million per year goes to the internet gaming fund
Sec. 9 (1) of the Act grants the Michigan Gaming Control Board significant powers to regulate online poker moving forward. The Act itself serves as the foundation for legal online poker, but the MGCB will play a large role in shaping the industry.
As the Act states, the MGCB is responsible for overseeing the conduct of online gaming in Michigan and “may do anything necessary or desirable to effectuate” the Act.
Among other duties, the MGCB is responsible for:
- Developing qualifications, standards and procedures for issuing licenses to online gaming operators and their software suppliers
- Approving, denying, renewing and revoking online gaming licenses
- Conducting hearings related to violations of the Act
- Collecting and managing all licensing fees and taxes paid by licensees
- Developing testing and auditing requirements for online gaming operators
- Establishing responsible gambling, privacy and safety standards for consumers
Michigan Online Poker FAQs
What is the minimum age to play poker online in Michigan?
Michigan law enforces a minimum age of 21 to play online poker. Operators verify customers are 21 by cross-referencing their names, addresses and other details against government and private databases.
Do I really have to be located within Michigan to play poker online?
Yes. Michigan law requires customers to be physically located within state lines to play online. Operators use geolocation technology to ensure customers are in Michigan.
Do I have to be a resident of Michigan to play online?
No. State law only requires customers be 21 or older and located within Michigan while playing.
Why am I being asked for the last four digits of my social security number?
Michigan poker regulations require operators to verify the age and identity of every customer, and social security numbers are collected to verify information provided by players.
Do Michigan poker sites share tables with poker sites in other states?
Not yet. However, Michigan may choose to join liquidity sharing agreements in the future, which would allow players in Michigan to play at the same tables as players from other states.