Michigan Online Poker Laws, Bills & Poker Sites
Last Updated January 6, 2020
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.
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 play 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.
Latest Updates from Michigan’s Online Poker Efforts
On December 20, 2019, Michigan became the sixth state in the new US internet gambling market to legalize online poker. It also became the fifth to legalize online casino games and the 20th to authorize sports betting.
It was not an easy road, but the tenacity of a few lawmakers made it happen.
Efforts began in 2017 with Michigan State Senator Mike Kowall introducing an online poker bill, one later picked up on the other side of the legislature by State Representative Brandt Iden. After a committee passage on the Senate side and positive informational hearing on the House side, the bills died.
In 2018, Kowall and Iden put their bills – SB.203 and HB.4926, respectively – back into play. Both were called the Lawful Internet Gaming Act. There was some activity throughout the year, including a rewrite of the Senate bill, but Iden began pushing his House bill in the summer. He took his bill to the House floor, where it passed by a 68-to-40 vote.
After the summer break and late into the year, Kowall took HB.4926 to the Senate floor on the last day of the session for the year. And during that last day, during the week before Christmas, the Senate made a few changes but passed it by a vote of 33-to-5. The House then approved the amended bill by a 71-to-38 vote.
The bill went to then-Governor Rick Snyder for his signature, but instead, he vetoed it on December 28. He claimed that the issue required more study, worrying that online gambling would affect land-based gambling revenue. The veto was a massive disappointment for online poker supporters, especially Iden and Kowall.
Kowall retired at the end of 2018, so Iden found a new supporter in the Senate in State Senator Curtis Hertel Jr. In early 2019, the two introduced identical bills, both called the Lawful Internet Gaming Act, which were essentially reiterations of the 2018 bills. The Senate bill was SB.186, and the House version was HB.4311.
Iden quickly took HB.4311 to the House Regulatory Reform Committee, but a hearing revealed that the Michigan Department of Treasury announced that it opposed the bill due to certain harm to the state’s online lottery sales and land-based gambling establishments. Newly-elected Governor Gretchen Whitmer agreed and issued a counterproposal to Iden’s bill.
Whitmer’s suggestions removed online slot games from the bill and raised licensing fees and tax rates significantly. Iden called it a non-starter, and the two engaged in a standoff. Iden said that Whitmer refused to meet for further negotiations.
At the beginning of December, Hertel stepped in. He was a Democrat, as was the governor, and she once worked for Hertel’s father, who had been in the legislature years before. Hertel met with Whitmer friend and State Representative Rebekah Warren. The two worked out a compromise.
On December 11, the newly-amended bill passed the Michigan Senate by a vote of 35-to-3, and the House re-approved it quickly.
And on December 20, 2019, Governor Whitmer of Michigan signed the bill into law, declaring victory for bipartisanship, compromise, and new revenue dollars for the state.
2019 Lawful Gambling Act
The bill that became law was HB.4311, better known as the Lawful Internet Gaming Act. Its purpose was multi-fold but summed up as:
Operating, conducting, and offering for play internet games… that already occur throughout the state illegally.
Consistent and in compliance with the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006.
Consistent and in compliance with the 1963 Michigan State Constitution, ensuring internet games be played lawfully…only conducted by persons who are lawfully operating casinos in this state.
In order to protect residents of this state who wager on games of chance or skill through the internet and to capture revenues generated from internet gaming.
Use of the internet to sell lottery games, sales of which will not be prohibited by the act.
The three Detroit-based casinos and 23 tribal casinos located throughout the state will be able to apply for licenses to operate online poker and/or casino games. The application fee is $50,000. If approved, the licensee will pay a $100,000 fee for the initial license and $50,000 per year for annual renewals.
The tax rate on gross gaming revenue, which is significantly more than what Iden originally proposed, will be as follows:
20% tax on amounts up to $4M
22% tax on amounts from $4M to $8M
24% tax on amounts from $8M to $10M
26% tax on amounts from $10M to $12M
28% tax on amounts over $12M
The problem with the new law is that it prohibits interstate compacts to share player pools. The purpose was to ease Whitmer’s mind about large online slot jackpots across state lines, but it inadvertently negatively affects online poker’s hopeful growth.
|State Code Section(s)||432; 750.318.750.301-315|
|Definitions||Illegal gambling: Any person or his or her agent or employee who, directly or indirectly, takes, receives, or accepts from any person any money or valuable thing with the agreement, understanding or allegation that any money or valuable thing will be paid or delivered to any person where the payment or delivery is alleged to be or will be contingent upon the result of any race, contest, or game or upon the happening of any event not known by the parties to be certain.|
Winning at gambling: Any person who by playing at cards, dice, or any other game, or by betting or putting up money on cards, or by any other means or device in the nature of betting on cards, or betting of any kind, wins or obtains any sum of money or any goods, or any article of value.
Social media internet game: A game offered over the internet or on a telephone or other mobile device. The chapter does not prohibit a social media internet game from rewarding a player, as a result of chance or uncertain event, with either 1 or more free plays or an extended period of playing time.
|Online Poker/Gambling||The issue of legalized online poker was first introduced to lawmakers in 2016 after the Michigan Lottery authorized online lottery ticket sales. There are now bills being offered in both legislative houses to legalize online poker and casino games, and they are being combined with sports betting for consideration in late 2018.|
|Live Poker||Some of the casinos in Michigan do have operational poker rooms with cash games and tournaments offered.|
|Casinos||There are more than two dozen casinos throughout the state associated with federally-recognized Native American tribes. Some are card rooms or bingo and pull-tab parlors, while others are fully functional casinos with table games and slot machines.|
|Sports Betting||There are several bills in front of the legislature in 2018 to legalize sports betting through a public vote or to allow parlay wagering. The primary proposal is being considered as a part of an omnibus bill with other forms of online gaming.|
|DFS||A bill is open for consideration in 2018 to legalize and regulate paid-entry fantasy sports contests.|
|Other Forms of Gambling||Recreational card games for seniors, horse racing and pari-mutuel wagering, bingo, charitable gambling, redemption games, lottery.|
Is Online Poker Legal in Michigan?
Yes. As of December 2019, online poker is legal in Michigan.
The following information is a summary of sections of the previous law relating to gambling. The new Lawful Internet Gaming Act will supersede some of this wording in order to allow the state to license and regulate its own online poker sites.
Before we get into the question of whether online poker is legal in MI, two important caveats. The first: smart gamblers always know the law firsthand, so be sure to review the complete Michigan statutes at this page. 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 poker laws in MI apply to online players? Here are some excerpts from the law that should be interesting to anyone playing poker in the state, online or live:
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.”
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)).
Social games of poker with no rake taken are exempted from the above definition.
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.
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 Facts
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.
The newly regulated market in Michigan is more than a year away from becoming a reality.
The state gambling regulator will need to devise detailed regulations, open a licensing application window, vet applicants, and ultimately issue licenses. Approved operators and land-based casino partners will then need to design and prepare their online poker sites, test them, and receive a final approval from the regulator for a full launch.
There is little chance that any site could be ready for launch in 2020. Mid-2021 or later that year is the best estimate at this time.
All Poker and Gambling Laws by State
- June 29th, 2019
Michigan State Representative Brandt Iden was nothing if not positive about online gaming. For several years, his optimism has been contagious, and many believed he would be the lawmaker to finally legalize online poker and casino games for people in Michigan. He did it, actually. Iden worked closely with formerRead Full
- March 10th, 2019
Last year was a bittersweet one for online poker fans in Michigan and those watching from across America. Lawmakers went to great efforts to find consensus on internet gaming bills, and support grew as the year progressed. Hope lived that Michigan would become the fifth state to legalize online pokerRead Full
- December 21st, 2018
It was impressive. On the last day of the 2018 legislative session, late in the day and then into the night, just days before the Christmas holiday, Michigan lawmakers passed a bill to legalize and regulate online poker and casino games. The Lawful Internet Gaming Act traveled leaps and boundsRead Full
- December 4th, 2018
Michigan State Representative Brandt Iden continues to keep the hopes of poker players high as the holidays approach. As the last month of the year began, he gave his most hopeful and confident statement yet about the legalization of online poker and other casino games in 2018. Online poker supportersRead Full
Famous Michigan Poker Players
A great number of famous poker players have hailed from Michigan.
Some might remember the 2013 World Series of Poker Main Event winner Ryan Reiss, who won more than $8.3 million for that one tournament. Going back a bit further, Joe Cada was the 2009 WSOP Main Event champion, who won more than $8.5 million for his victory. (Cada has won three more WSOP bracelets since then.)
Dan Heimiller is a longtime poker pro, taking third place on the Michigan leaderboard after Riess and Cada, with online poker player Jeff Gross coming in fourth on the list. David Baker – formerly known as DBakes – got his start in online poker and played a fair amount of live and online throughout his poker career.
As of 2020, these were the top players in the category of Michigan natives and their lifetime live tournament earnings:
1. Ryan Riess ($15 million)
2. Joe Cada ($14.3 million)
3. Dan Heimiller ($6.3 million)
4. Jeff Gross ($3.3 million)
5. David Baker ($3.2 million)
6. Nicolas Manion ($2.9 million)
7. Ping Liu ($2 million)
8. Dash Dudley ($1.8 million)
9. Anthony Gargano ($1.8 million)
10. Dean Hamrick ($1.7 million)
Sources & Citations For This Article on Michigan Online Poker
- Michigan Gaming Control Board
- Michigan Problem Gambling
- Latest debate over gambling in Michigan tied to proposal at horse racing tracks | MLive.com
- UNLV Center for Gaming Research: Michigan Gaming Summary
- Michigan Lottery and Charitable Gaming
- National Council on Problem Gambling (Michigan)
- Official State Website
- Laws/Code of Michigan
- Michigan Legal Guide