Group Dynamics: Michigan Officially Joins US Online Poker Interstate Compact

May 23, 2022
Group Dynamics: Michigan Officially Joins US Online Poker Interstate Compact

US online poker players came one step closer to an expanded interstate compact on Monday. The Michigan Gaming Control Board announced that executive director Henry Williams signed the agreement allowing online poker players in the state to compete against players in Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey.

“I am happy to announce Michigan has joined the multistate poker compact, and much of the increased tax revenue from multi-state poker will go to support K-12 education in Michigan,” Williams said in a news release. “By joining, Michigan will almost double the potential pool of participants in multi-state poker games.”

The agreement among the four states is officially known as the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement. The group announced in April that Michigan was approved to join. Williams’ signature now gives the agreement the official go-ahead.

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What the signing means

The agreement’s official approval paves the way for legal online poker sites to share player pools in all four states. WSOP.com currently operates the All American Poker Network, the country’s only shared liquidity market. That includes Nevada and New Jersey as well as Delaware via its partner 888poker.

The company also operates a ringed-in platform in Michigan. This could now be included in the larger interstate platform as part of the compact.

Partypoker US Network also operates in New Jersey and Michigan, and could eventually pool those players. PokerStars has operations in the same states as well, and could do the same.

However, don’t expect interstate operations to begin right away. There are still regulatory hurdles to overcome.

“The operators still have work to do before Michigan residents may join multi-state poker games,” Williams said. “The MGCB must make sure Michigan residents are protected when they play multistate poker, and we will apply the same rigor to review of the new offering as we have other internet games.”

A look at the approval process

An expanded interstate agreement is now officially approved, but there still remain some regulatory hurdles for operators. To obtain authorization to launch, licensed operators and platform providers must complete several steps.

In April, the board issued guidance for operators that includes:

  • Meeting all conditions and requirements established in the multi-jurisdictional agreement and conducting multi-state poker only in the jurisdictions in the agreement.
  • Approval for new platforms or platform modifications, new remote gaming systems, and new game software.
  • Technical security standards information plus review and inspection requirements for a new data center. The agency must give written approval for servers capable of receiving wagers located outside of Michigan.
  • Any new suppliers must obtain Internet gaming supplier licenses. New platform providers and vendors may need to register with the MGCB.
  • New operator or platform provider employees involved in multi-state poker may need to obtain MGCB occupational licenses.

The population of all four states in the compact totals about 23 million, offering some nice potential for the player pool.

The Michigan Legislature passed a bill allowing multi-jurisdictional poker in December 2020. Sen. Curtis Hertel (D) sponsored the bill, which Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed later that month. Seeing the state’s efforts come to fruition pleases Hertzel.

“Michigan poker players will enjoy more options and will likely play for bigger money when they can compete against players from other states,” Hertel said when the compact’s signing was announced. “I am glad we were able to make this possible for Michigan poker players.”

USPoker spoke with some online poker players about their thoughts on interstate compacts and what they could do for the industry.

More states to join?

While those four states now can offer interstate online poker, many players may already be asking when others will get on board. There are also a few others that could potentially add to the player pool as well.

It appears officials with the Multi-State Internet Gaming Association are already working on that.

“While the agreement currently is limited to four states, it is possible more states may join,” the MGCB noted in announcing the Wolverine State joining the compact.

Pennsylvania is the largest of those potential members with 12.8 million people. Online poker in Pennsylvania is already operating and seems likely to join the compact at some point.

Two smaller states have also legalized online poker but haven’t seen any operators launch: Connecticut and West Virginia. Those states could also potentially boost shared player pools as well. Here’s a look at all legalized states and operators that are offering poker in each.

  • Michigan – BetMGM (part of partypoker US Network), PokerStars, WSOP.com
  • Pennsylvania – BetMGM and Borgata Poker (part of partypoker US Network), PokerStars, WSOP.com
  • New Jersey – partypoker US Network (including BetMGM and Borgata Poker skins), WSOP.com (including 888poker skin), PokerStars
  • Nevada – WSOP.com
  • Delaware – 888poker

The agreement could mean some operators also move into Nevada. BetMGM recently announced a major live tournament at Aria in Las Vegas in conjunction with the online poker product.

Having a footprint in Nevada/Las Vegas seems a nice step for operators looking to reach more players and create synergy with live events as BetMGM is doing.

With shared player pools, operators no longer face the obstacles of launching in smaller population states. Some good things seem to be on the horizon for US online poker players.

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