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PokerStars Launch Brings Legal Online Poker To Michigan

Michigan online casinos and sports betting sites went live on Friday, January 22, with online poker to follow at some undisclosed future date. The poker community didn’t have to wait very long.

PokerStars Michigan unexpectedly launched just a week later, on January 29, alongside the company’s mobile sports betting apps and online casino sites, FoxBet and Stars Casino.

The PokerStars launch was facilitated by an agreement with the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians Gaming Authority (“Odawa”) for online betting and gaming market access in Michigan.

“The key differentiators for us have always been our valued partnership with the FOX Corporation and the strength of our industry-leading FOX Bet Super 6 product combined with the PokerStars business, and we plan to lean into these unique assets as we launch in Michigan,” Kip Levin, FOX Bet CEO said in a press release. “Behind FOX Bet Sportsbook, PokerStars, and Stars Casino, customers create one account for all three apps, unlocking a wide variety of exciting and entertaining options to supercharge the experience for our Michigan audience.”

The sudden launch of PokerStars and the company’s other gaming brands was welcome news in the online poker world. With a population of 10 million, Michigan has the potential to be a medium-strength online poker market in its own right, but the full impact of Michigan joining New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware, and Pennsylvania as online poker states won’t be realized until these states join forces. A goal that is now in sight.

Bye, Bye Wire Act Debate; Hello PokerStars

The recent First Circuit decision that went in favor of the New Hampshire Lottery is likely the end of the debate over whether or not the Wire Act applies to all forms of online gambling, or as the First Circuit found, is limited to sports betting.

The legal victory, coupled with the continued spread of online gambling in the US and the death of Sheldon Adelson, a staunch opponent of online gambling and the driving force behind anti-online gambling efforts, has removed one of the biggest impediments to online gambling legalization.  That bodes well for the future of online poker in the US.

US Online Poker: The Big Picture

Online poker is a reality in:

  • Nevada, population 3 million
  • Delaware, population >1 million
  • New Jersey, population 9 million
  • Pennsylvania, population 13 million
  • Michigan, population 10 million

That works out to roughly 10% of the US population.

Further, West Virginia (population 1.8 million) has already legalized online poker, and language in Arkansas (population 3 million) sports betting law contains some language that could facilitate online poker in the state. As I wrote in a September 2019 column at Betting USA, Arkansas “regulations include provisions for the authorization of online poker in Rule 5: Operation of Interactive Gaming (online poker regulations begin on page 77).”

There are also two legitimate candidates in Connecticut (population 3.5 million) and Indiana (population 6.7 million) that could join the growing list of online poker states.

If that happens, eight or nine states (depending on how you count Arkansas) with a total population of around 51 million would have access to legal online poker in the US. And if those states all join the existing Multi-State Internet Gaming Association (MSIGA) and pool their players, online poker would be alive and well in the US for the first time since 2011. That would also improve the chances of several other states joining the online poker party.