Legal Gambling & Poker Laws in Michigan

Michigan Online Gambling & Poker Laws
Gambling Laws in Michigan

With casinos aplenty and a strong gambling tradition, the state of Michigan is a natural fit for poker.  Online poker has been a hit as well, but with its sharply rising popularity come a number of questions - about the law, about how poker is regulated, about how to play and more.  We can't answer every question you have about online poker in Michigan, but we can get you pointed in the right direction with our Guide to Playing Online Poker in Michigan.

Michigan Online Poker

Top Legal Michigan Online Poker Sites

What do we look for when choosing the top legal poker sites for Michiganders?  The same things we look for in any poker site.  The software must be quick and stable.  The games must have weak players. The rooms must be licensed and overseen by a competent regulator.  And, of course, they must accept players from Michigan.  Here are our picks of rooms that check all of the above boxes:

Poker Players From Michigan - Can They Play Poker Online?

We get this question from US poker players all of the time: "Can people in my state play online poker?"  In this case, the answer to the question for Michigan is yes - it's easy to setup an online poker account from Michigan and get to playing for real money in a matter of minutes.  There are plenty of sites that accept players from Michigan - but we still suggest that players start their search with a room from this real money USA list.

Online Poker Laws in Michigan

Before we get into the question of whether online poker is legal in Michigan, two important caveats.  The first: smart gamblers always know the law firsthand, so be sure to review the complete Michigan statutes at this page [1].  Second: we're not lawyers and this isn't legal advice.  It's just an aid for reading and understanding the basics of Michigan gambling law.

How does the law in Michigan apply to online poker players?  Here are some excerpts from the law that should be interesting to anyone playing poker in the state, online or live:

  1. It's clearly illegal to offer gambling without holding the proper license in Michigan.  Section 432.218 makes it a felony to run a "gambling operation where wagering is used or to be used without a license issued by the board."
  2. The definition of "gambling game" as written in Michigan law appears to include all forms of real-money poker: "any game played with cards, dice, equipment or a machine, including any mechanical, electromechanical or electronic device which shall include computers and cashless wagering systems, for money, credit, or any representative of value" (Section 432.202(v)).
  3. Social games of poker with no rake taken are exempted from the above definition.
  4. Interestingly, it's more of a crime to win at illegal gambling than it is to lose.  Section 750.314 details the charge of "winning at gambling" - if you win less than $50, that's a misdemeanor, and if your winnings cross the $50 threshold, you could potentially be looking at jail time (by the letter of the law).  It's also a crime to lose, but no jail time is involved and the law allows you to sue the winner to recoup your losses.
  5. There are numerous accessory and conspiracy charges that bring additional criminal exposure to individuals involved in the business operations (even if the connection is tenuous) of illegal gambling activity.

Michigan gambling law is dense, at times (apparently) contradictory and lacks a clear discussion of online poker.  That leaves poker players in a tricky position, one that may require professional help to navigate.

Will Michigan Pass a Law to Regulate Online Poker?

Michigan is a tough state to call.  On one hand, there's already a good deal of regulated gambling in the state, and there are obvious needs for revenue at state and local levels.  On the other hand, there simply hasn't been much talk coming out of the state that would suggest impending online poker regulation.  Ultimately, Michigan seems like another state that is unlikely to take the lead on poker regulation, but will follow the fad if online poker begins to spread.

Michigan Gambling Facts

History of Michigan Gambling

There's a long relationship between Michigan and gambling, but it wasn't until the 1900s that the state began a slow and steady march to expand regulated gambling.  Horse racing came first, with pari-mutuel wagering getting the nod in 1933.  The lottery followed in 1972, and laws governing charitable gambling passed the same year.  Following that burst of activity, proponents of regulated gambling had a bit of a wait before further progress was made.  In fact, it would be nearly 20 years before additional options were introduced in the state.

Regulated Michigan Gambling Options

What's there to do for a gambler in Michigan seeking regulated choices?  Plenty - you'll find all of the major five regulated gambling formats on offer in Michigan.  If you need a quick refresher, that means commercial casinos, tribal gambling options, pari-mutuel betting, and the state-run lottery.  Casinos (commercial and tribal) are spread throughout the state, with the highest concentration in and around the Detroit area.

Regulated Michigan Online Gambling Options

While Michigan may be awash in land-based regulated gambling, there's little to speak of when it comes to state-regulated online gambling.  There are currently no online gambling sites directly licensed or regulated by the state of Michigan.

Michigan Gambling News

Recent attempts to put expanded casino gambling to a public vote were sidelined by legal challenges [2].  Legislators are also fighting a battle to provide a shot in the arm to the state's horse racing industry [3].  It's certainly possible that online poker could find its way into the conversation regarding gambling expansion, but there have been no recent reports that any such efforts are underway.

Michigan Gambling: Further Reading

Green Elephant Antique Gambling and Saloon Museum [4].  The name is long, but the purpose is simple: To collect and refurbish antique gambling machines.  Slot machines and gaming tables from the past abound at the Green Elephant, a lively representation of the state's long-running love affair with gambling.

History of Indian Gaming in Michigan [5].  State-sponsored study that outlines the development of the tribal gambling industry in Michigan, including the legal battles fought between tribes and the states.

UNLV Center for Gaming Research [6].  This site breaks down all of the major forms of regulated gambling in the state of Michigan, with capsule histories and the latest financial details.

The Role of Michigan in Poker History

When you put the words "poker" and "Michigan" in the same sentences, there's a good chance you're talking about Joe Cada.  Known to most as the champion of the 2009 World Series of Poker, Cada may be the single most famous player from the state - at least until another Michigander wins the title.  One fellow Michigan resident who could be up to the task is David "Bakes" Baker, who holds two WSOP bracelets and has made four final tables.

Sources & Citations For This Article on Michigan Online Poker