Published: October 4, 2020

Michigan Senate Approves Interstate Online Poker Bill

A major step was made for future Michigan online poker players who would like to compete with others in different states.

On Thursday, a bill that would allow interstate online poker in Michigan cleared the state’s Senate and will now advance to the House of Representatives.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. in June and Senate Bill 0991 would allow consumers in Michigan to compete against players in other regulated states across the US. The bill was approved by a voting margin of 36-1, with one excused. SB0991 also establishes the definition of poker as “the traditional game of poker and any derivative of the game of poker,” as approved by the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB).

If the bill passes into law, it would serve as an amendment to the Michigan Lawful Internet Gaming Act. The bill was signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in December 2019, and it allows the MGCB to issue licenses for online casino gaming. It includes language that would allow the MGCB to work with other jurisdictions to establish interstate games.

“The board may enter into agreements with other jurisdictions, including Indian tribes, to facilitate, administer, and regulate multijurisdictional internet gaming for poker,” the bill states.

Online poker is also legal in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Nevada and West Virginia.

MGCB Anticipating Possible November Launch

The MGCB held a virtual public hearing on Sept. 23 before submitting its iGaming rules for review to the Michigan Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules and the Legislative Service Bureau for the final review.

“The Michigan Gaming Control Board appreciates the feedback provided by stakeholders and the public on proposed rules for internet gaming and internet sports betting,” MGCB executive director Richard Kalm said in a statement after the hearing. “Today, our agency completed a key step in the rulemaking process by holding a public hearing on the two sets of proposed rules.”

Online poker was one of the topics brought up during the hearing, with one person asking when Michigan’s online poker sites could possibly be launched. This prompted David Murley, head of MGCB Indian Gaming and Legal Affairs Division, to discuss the remaining steps that need to be completed for the necessary start period. He explained how it’s up to the operators and platform providers to decide what games they want to make available and when to release them.

Murley projected a possible November launch, but also cautioned it could potentially be moved to the start of 2021.

Rules Need to be Approved

“We’ll have to get the rules turned in and approved,” Murley said. “We think we’ll have the rules turned in in October, but it will be up to the legislature to approve them. Once they actually have to meet and say it’s OK for these rules to go into effect. If they don’t do that, they (the launch) could be pushed off into next year.

“While we think they will, we haven’t heard any negative things from the legislature, we think they’re OK with these rules. It is election season so I don’t know how often they will be meeting from now until the election. So even if this occurs after the election, they will have to meet and say they waive the time they’re allowed that the statute gives us to review these rules; it’s OK if they go into effect.

“Once the rules go into effect, that will allow us to give licenses to both the operators and the platform providers. End of November, that’s our hope. But that will again depend on everything getting turned in, reviewed and approved. Then secondly, ultimately, what the operators and platform providers decide to do in terms of launching their product.”

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