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Michigan Online Poker Laws, Bills & Poker Sites

Poker Sites Accepting Players from Michigan
Michigan Online Poker Laws, Bills & Poker Sites
Last Updated September 12, 2019

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

Michigan had not been a possibility for legal and regulated online poker until 2017 when State Senator Mike Kowall introduced a bill and pushed it through the Regulatory Reform Committee. Later in the year, State Representative Brandt Iden introduced his own bill on his side of the legislature, which received an informational hearing and positive response but did not pass.

As 2018 began, Kowall’s SB.203 and Iden’s HB.4926 were both alive and in play.

Silence for several months finally led to word at the end of March that Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof had been involved with a rewrite of SB.203. The new version would require a voter referendum on a state and/or local level for final approval. Considering Meekhof plays a significant role in setting the legislative agenda and had consulted with many stakeholders to avoid hurdles, many were hopeful for progress for the bill to see action on the floor.

Nothing ever came of the rewrite of the Senate bill, but Rep. Brandt Iden (R) did begin to talk about the content of a rewritten House bill in May. The Poker Players Alliance made a social media push for supporters of online poker to contact Michigan legislators, and Iden was working hard to garner support in the House.

Brandt Iden HB 4926

Brandt Iden introduced HB 4926, better known as the Michigan online poker bill.

The draft of the House Bill 4926 came to light in the middle of May, and it looked promising. Brandit Iden admitted that the biggest hurdle was coming to an agreement with the state’s Native American tribes, but he insisted that the talks were moving along well. Those tribal concerns became clearerby the end of the month, as Iden revealed it to be simple but substantive. Tribal leaders were concerned that the federal government could change the law at the national level to prohibit tribal casinos from offering online gambling while allowing it for commercial casinos. They wanted a provision in the bill to stop all casinos from benefiting from online gambling in that case, but Iden could not do it without losing the support of the casinos. Iden admitted that one concern could be a poison pill for HB.4926.

House Bill 4926 in 2018 Session

Nearly two weeks later, on June 12, 2018, Iden took his bill to the House floor, and after several readings, it passed by a vote of 68-40. While the legislature then went on its summer break, there is time for the Senate to work off the successful House bill and garner the votes necessary to pass it. Iden noted that the Lawful Internet Gaming Act will be “at the top of the agenda” in the fall of 2018.

For months after Rep. Brandt Iden (R) passed his bill through the House, he insisted that it would go on to pass through the Senate and become law by the end of the year. Though there hadn’t been any movement in the legislature since June, Iden expressed his confidenceon numerous occasions that the bill was “close to the finish line.”

Michigan lawmakers then met during the last week before Christmas, and on the final day of that session, Kowall made the most of his last day in office. He made a few last-minute changes to the bill and passed it through the Senate by a vote of 33-5. The amended bill then went back to Iden for House approval, which it received by a 71-38 vote. It was finished in the late-night hours, and the Lawful Internet Gaming Act went to Governor Rick Snyder for his signature.

Iden and Kowall expected the outgoing governor to sign the bill, but Snyder vetoed it on December 28. While he acknowledged that the lawmakers and stakeholders put a lot of work into the bill, Snyder believed the issue required more study as to how other states have handled legalized online poker and casino games, and how the new games would affect land-based gambling revenue and its allocations. The result was disappointing and disheartening for Iden, who spent much of the year touting the success of New Jersey’s online gambling market. Iden does plan to start over with new legislation in 2019 and hopes the new governor will sign it.

Many online poker supporters looked for early movement in 2019 from Iden, but it took several months to see a piece of legislation. But in that time, Iden found a partner in the Michigan Senate to champion online gaming. On March 7, Iden introduced HB.4311, and State Senator Curtis Hertel Jr. proposed SB.186. The identical bills matched the Lawful Internet Gaming Act language of the 2018 bill.

2019 Michigan Online Casino Bill Update

Gretchen Whitmer Michigan Online Poker Bill

Many hoped Gov. Whitmer would approve HB 4926, but she expressed concerns over its effect on state lottery ticket sales.

About one week later, Iden took HB.4311 to the House Regulatory Reform Committee for a hearing that was generally very positive. As Iden waits for the right time to bring it up for a committee vote, he and Hertel are working with newly-seated Governor Gretchen Whitmer to secure her support to prevent a repeat of the 2018 defeat.

As it turned out, Gov. Whitmer was the biggest hurdle in the process. She accepted the Michigan Department of Treasury’s contention that online gaming will harm the state’s online lottery sales and land-based gambling establishments. Despite this being disproven in other states – New Jersey is a prime example – Whitmer’s concerns persisted.

Whitmer’s counter-proposal to Iden and Hertel’s bills was to remove online slots from the equation and raise licensing fees and tax rates. Brandt Iden said her proposal was a non-starter and not a meaningful or reasonable counter-proposal.

As of the end of July 2019, Rep. Iden said he would speak to Whitmer and attempt to negotiate a compromise, but both sides of the Michigan online gaming issue seem unwilling to budge.

Michigan Gambling & Poker Laws Summarized

State Code Section(s)432; 750.318.750.301-315
DefinitionsIllegal 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/GamblingThe 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 PokerSome of the casinos in Michigan do have operational poker rooms with cash games and tournaments offered.
CasinosThere 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 BettingThere 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.
DFSA bill is open for consideration in 2018 to legalize and regulate paid-entry fantasy sports contests.
Other Forms of GamblingRecreational card games for seniors, horse racing and pari-mutuel wagering, bingo, charitable gambling, redemption games, lottery.

Is Online Poker Legal in Michigan?

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 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.

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.

Regulated Michigan Online Gaming 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.

All Poker and Gambling Laws by State

Michigan in the News
  • 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 former

    Read 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 poker

    Read 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 bounds

    Read 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 supporters

    Read Full

Michigan Gambling: Further Reading

Green Elephant Antique Gambling and Saloon Museum .  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 .  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 .  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.

About Jennifer Newell

Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world as she also launches a new subscription box company and finishes her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including PokerStars.com and has followed the US poker and gaming market closely for the last 15 years. Follow Jen on Twitter

Disclaimer: The information on this site is my interpretation of the laws as made available online. It is in no way meant to serve as legal advice or instruction. We recommend that you seek legal advice from a licensed attorney for further or official guidance.

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