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Michigan 4th to Join Multi-State Internet Poker Compact

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Michigan has become the fourth state to be approved to join the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA). This means that MI-regulated online poker sites will be able to combine traffic and player pools with their counterparts in the other states that are parties to the Agreement. This news was announced in a press release from the Multi-State Internet Gaming Association dated Wednesday, April 6, 2022.

Michigan Joins MSIGA

About the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement

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The MSIGA was formulated in 2015 by Nevada and Delaware officials who were keen to promote the growth of their then-nascent legalized online poker economies. It allows individuals in any member state to log on to their licensed internet poker room of choice and play not only against others in the same state but also competitors located in the other states that have signed the Agreement.

The initial impact of the MSIGA was very limited mostly because the tiny size of the Delaware regulated online poker market meant that “small” was being combined with “almost nothing” to yield less-than-stellar results. However, when New Jersey joined the compact in 2017, internet poker numbers were boosted by a noticeable amount across all three states. Yet, even still, the overall effect of the MSIGA was restricted by the fact that only a single operator, 888/WSOP, transacted in more than one of the member states.

For additional insight into the compact, browse over to this page laden with info about the MSIGA.

Michigan's Compact Preparations

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At the time Michigan passed internet gaming licensing legislation (HB4311) in December 2019, there was no indication that it was looking to pursue entering into any multi-state gaming agreements. No doubt the uncertainty about the MSIGA's legality under the Wire Act dissuaded Michigan's leaders from pursuing such arrangements. Also, the state lottery expressed concern about Michigan residents being able to sample the wares of other states' lotteries if any cross-jurisdictional gaming were permitted.

Gretchen WhitmerGovernor Gretchen Whitmer Signed the Internet Poker Bill in December 2019

Courts Favor Limited Wire Act Interpretation

A federal court had ruled in June 2019 that the Wire Act applies only to sports betting, and thus, the MSIGA, which deals only with poker and casino gaming, did not violate the law. However, the Department of Justice appealed this decision, and it took until March 15, 2021 for the original judgment to be upheld by the appellate court and until June 2021 for the DoJ to announce that it was not going to appeal further.

By late 2000, Michigan began to prepare for the Wire Act verdict that was eventually established, passing SB991, which added the following text to the online poker legalization law:

The [Michigan Gaming Control] board may enter into agreements with other jurisdictions, including Indian tribes, to facilitate, administer, and regulate multijurisdictional internet gaming for poker by internet gaming operators to the extent that entering into the agreement is consistent with state and federal laws and if the internet gaming under the agreement is conducted only in the United States.

Delays Prolong the Process

The legislation permitting Michigan to join multi-jurisdictional gaming agreements had an effective date of March 24, 2021, so it was impossible for the state to pursue any gaming negotiations with other states when the first Michigan online poker licensed sites appeared in January 2021. Yet as March came and went, nothing was heard about any possibility of Michigan entering the MSIGA. In May 2021, the executive director of the Michigan Gaming Control Board indicated that discussions were underway and expressed his hopes of announcing an agreement later that same year.

However, the end of 2021 rolled around with no news from the MGCB on any interstate gaming compact. In February 2022 came the news that Board had indicated its desire to join the compact and had even suggested a few changes to the Agreement so as to comply with Michigan law. Then in late March, the MGCB issued a document entitled “Multistate Internet Poker Potential Tasks and Considerations for Operators and Platform Providers,” which contained guidance for how licensees can ensure that their platforms are ready for multi-state operations.

With the recent decision to allow Michigan into the MSIGA, there are only a couple of steps remaining before we see players in the Wolverine State able to participate in games with their peers in New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada. First, Michigan needs to sign the Agreement. Then, the MGCB must give approval to each operator that wishes to join its MI player pool to the combined poker liquidity fostered by the compact.

Potential Impact of Michigan Participation

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Because it’s a relatively large state, we could see the entry of Michigan into the MSIGA leading to incredible jumps in overall licensed poker traffic. Indeed, Michigan by itself has almost as many residents as the other three states in the Agreement combined:

  • Delaware: 1 million
  • Nevada: 3 million
  • New Jersey: 8.9 million
  • Michigan: 10 million
  • Total: 22.9 million

Rebecca Satterfield, who serves as the manager of the Multi-State Internet Gaming Association and the Delaware Lottery's internet gaming manager, commented:

The Multi-State Internet Gaming Association welcomes Michigan to its ranks, along with its nearly 10 million residents, who can now avail themselves of a full array of interactive gaming among the Association's member states.

Once Michigan fully joins the MSIGA, PokerStars will be able to combine its poker rooms in that state and New Jersey. According to ring game traffic tracking resource GameIntel, PokerStars supports about 160 simultaneously active cash game players on its Michigan platform, which could be combined with the 100 players in its New Jersey cardroom, yielding combined average traffic of 260.

A similar combination will be possible for PartyPoker and its partner BetMGM. PartyPoker NJ draws in about 110 cash gamers, on average, while BetMGM MI hosts about 100, so the combined total of 210 represents about a doubling in player volumes for both states.

WSOP, along with sister site 888, currently transacts in all three preexisting MSIGA member states. Its country-wide 200 average ring game players will add on to the 60 that populate its Michigan site for a total of 260.

Three MI Online Poker SitesThe Three Companies With a Presence in the Michigan Licensed Online Poker Market

Thus, with the flip of a switch, player pools will be just about doubled. While we have focused on cash game traffic, this effect will also apply to tournaments, which will probably lead to larger guaranteed prize pools. The increased traffic will likely build upon itself with higher player counts making for bigger and more interesting games, which in turn will attract more participants to the tables.

Next Steps

Steps

Once Michigan is fully integrated into the MSIGA, the members to the Agreement will no doubt cast an eager eye across the regulated gaming landscape to select their next addition to the compact. There are three candidates as far as internet poker is concerned: Connecticut, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

All three of these states have implemented the necessary legislation to allow regulated interactive poker rooms to open up. However, no entities are currently licensed to offer internet poker in Connecticut or West Virginia.

This leaves Pennsylvania as the front-runner to become the next state to join the MSIGA. PokerStars, BetMGM, and WSOP already transact in the Keystone State, and the PA population of 13 million makes it a juicy market for online gaming.

Yet, as beneficial as adding Pennsylvania to the mix might be, states like Connecticut and West Virginia might really be where the future of the MSIGA lies. One of the reasons for the lack of licensed online poker rooms within their borders undoubtedly is their small populations, which make getting self-sustaining poker sites off the ground very difficult. The sizable mass of player traffic represented by the MSIGA signatories must be very tempting to smaller states that otherwise would be unable to fully capitalize on the boom in legalized online poker in the United States.

State-Regulated Poker Still Not an Option for Most

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Though recent favorable court rulings and successful launches in ring-fenced markets make U.S. licensed internet poker appear to be an unstoppable juggernaut, the truth is that it's available only to a small fraction of the country's population. After all, the presence of four regulated online poker states means that there are 46 states where logging into a locally licensed site and playing some cards is not an option.

Fortunately, there are offshore sites that are reputable and licensed in international jurisdictions. Many of them welcome U.S. residents through their virtual doors. There's nothing illegal about playing at these rooms, and they represent a solid resource for those who lack online poker sites that are licensed by their states. Even in states that do possess their own instate internet poker rooms, the offshore market may appeal to those who appreciate having a greater selection to choose from and enjoy the thrill of competing against individuals from around the world.

To learn more about these offshore destinations, you can read this guide to USA online poker. For additional information about the legal situation, check out this detailed explanation of internet poker legality in the United States.

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