Michigan Governor Signs Interstate Online Poker as Law
Exactly one year and nine days from the signing of the Lawful Internet Gaming Act into law. Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed that bill on December 20, 2019 to legalize internet gaming and poker, sports betting, and fantasy sports.
On December 29, 2020, Whitmer signed an amendment to that bill, which authorizes interstate online poker. The Michigan Gaming Control Board will be able to facilitate agreements with regulators in other states to share online poker player pools.
The interstate component was a major missing link for the original Lawful Internet Gaming Act. Since online poker on a state-by-state regulated level shows little chance for growth and substantial revenue, the sector’s success and future depend on the ability to share poker tables with sites in other states.
The final approval puts the wheels for online poker into motion.
Multijurisdictional Internet Poker
It started as SB.991, introduced by Michigan State Senator Curtis Hertel. The goal was to authorize interstate online poker, which was omitted from the original Lawful Internet Gaming Act to prevent online casinos from linking jackpots across state lines. Hertel explained the difference with online poker, and the bill moved forward to amend the amend the original act.
The bill explained that the amendment would allow the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) to “enter into agreements to facilitate multijurisdictional internet poker.”
Not only would it allow Michigan to sign agreements with other states, it specifically authorized deals with Indian tribes as well. The only caveats were that the agreement abide by state and federal laws, and the poker conducted stays within the United States.
Governor Makes It Official
While the Michigan legislature’s website didn’t reflect the approval until the first week of January, it appeared that Governor Whitmer signed the bill on December 29, 2020. She signed it one week after receiving it. And on that same day, the Secretary of State recorded it filed.
Legislation to allow real-money online poker sites in Michigan to pool players with other states is now official. @brianpempus on the online poker bill becoming law: https://t.co/ihwVMuW2fi pic.twitter.com/vsoNJ09TJ9
— MI Bets (@MichiganBets) January 6, 2021
The full document recorded to amend the Lawful Internet Gaming Act included amendments to several sections of the law. Most were minor changes and clarifications.
The bill took longer than anticipated to pass and obtain the governor’s signature. Hertel started the process earlier in 2020, and the bill sat in the Committee on Regulatory Reform for months before approval at the end of September.
In all fairness, Michigan lawmakers have been a bit busy with everything from a pandemic, economic woes, and threats to the governor’s life. Interstate online poker wasn’t at the top of the priority list.
It’s important to note that the effective date of the interstate component of the Lawful Internet Gaming Act is March 24, 2021. No entities may sign an interstate compact involving Michigan until after that date.
However, that is not of the utmost importance. At this stage of the game, there are no internet gaming sites available to players in Michigan whatsoever. The first goal is to launch the sites.
It seems that online casino sites will launch soon. The 15 provisional licenses issued in early December indicate that several companies are preparing to virtually open their online casinos. Several of them are connected to online poker licenses as well, such as BetMGM (PartyPoker) and TSG Interactive (PokerStars). If they launch their casino games soon, they can add online poker at any time.
The only reason for the online poker delay, it seemed, was the uncertainty surrounding the potential for interstate poker. Now that they know it will be an option as of March 24, they can move forward.
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