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Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement: Past, Present & Future

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The Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement, or MSIGA for short, is a brief document of fewer than 20 pages that was initially just a minor detail in the world of online poker. However, with the growth of regulated, state-licensed interactive poker rooms in the United States, this document has begun to assume a more important role in the industry.

Since its inception, additional states have joined the Agreement, including a couple that are very prominent players in the online poker industry. With this increase in participation, some foresee the MSIGA being a key component of U.S.A. online poker going forward. Therefore, it's worth examining this agreement in detail to understand how it works and how it may facilitate the growth of regulated online poker sites for Americans.

Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement

What Is the MSIGA?

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The Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement is a compact, which is kind of like a treaty between sovereign nations except that a compact involves sub-national entities, like states. Several of the states that have launched licensed online poker regimes have negotiated the terms of the MSIGA in order to promote the robustness of their virtual poker endeavors. To be specific, Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey are parties to the MSIGA while Michigan is expected to join shortly.

MSIGA MembersMembers of the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement

What the Agreement does is allow players in any one of the signatory states to engage in online poker play against their counterparts in the other states. So, for example, someone can log on to a regulated poker site in New Jersey and compete with individuals not just in the Garden State but also people in Nevada and Delaware. This assumes, of course, that the poker site in question does business in New Jersey as well as one or more of the other MSIGA member states.

What Purpose Does the MSIGA Serve?

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In effect, this compact creates a shared player pool across the affected states. This is beneficial for the games because people like to log in and see bustling lobbies and tables full of players. Tournaments can grow larger and feature boosted guaranteed prize pools because they're counting on traffic from multiple states to hit their participation targets rather than having to rely on the ring-fenced player pool of just one state.

We have already seen increases in poker liquidity among the states that have signed the Multi-State Gaming Agreement. As more states join, we expect this trend to continue and become even more pronounced.

Poker Networks Utilizing the MSIGA

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As we've noted above, in order to benefit from the MSIGA, a poker operator must be licensed to transact in multiple member states. Here is a list of the networks and sites that fulfill this condition:

All American Poker Network

The All American Poker Network was started by 888 Holdings and Avenue Capital in 2013, but 888 subsequently bought out its partner and now exercises sole control of the network. The All-American Poker Network is active in the states of Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware. In Delaware, 888 holds the exclusive contract to provide software for the three DE legalized poker sites, so it basically holds a monopoly in this state.

The active skins on the All American Poker Network are:

  • WSOP Nevada
  • WSOP New Jersey
  • 888 New Jersey
  • Delaware Park (DE)
  • Dover Downs (DE)
  • Harrington Raceway (DE)
All American Poker NetworkMembers of the All American Poker Network

In Nevada and New Jersey, WSOP.com and 888poker are partners with Caesars whereas the All American Network's Delaware sites are joint ventures with each of the state's racinos.

The All American Poker Network has an average of 180 ring game players simultaneously active according to poker traffic tracking site GameIntel. The overwhelming majority of cash games are shared across the entire network although on the tournament side, the WSOP.com skin has certain events, mostly related to the World Series of Poker, that are absent from the other network members. Some promotions are also skin-specific.

Standalone, Ring-Fenced Poker Sites

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Despite the institution of the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement, there still remain several standalone state-licensed sites. At these rooms, each state's players are ring-fenced and can only compete against their neighbors within the same state.

Here's a list of all the state-licensed U.S.A. internet poker sites that do not combine their traffic across state borders. For the sake of clarity and organization, we have divided them up by state.

New Jersey

NJ Map

New Jersey is an old hand at managing regulated online poker and casino systems. It has proven, over the years, to be capable of sustaining at least three independent poker networks at any given time. Here's a list of the New Jersey-specific networks and sites that are currently operating:

partypoker/BetMGM/Borgata

partypoker NJ operates together with sister sites Borgata Poker and BetMGM Poker, and they all conduct business under a license granted to the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City. The games to be found are virtually identical across all three sites, but they each have their own promotional wrinkles, like party's weekly cashback, BetMGM's exclusive Vegas hotel offers, and the ability of Borgata's customers to trade in reward points for actual comps at the AC resort after which it is named.

According to the numbers we've seen, the three partypoker-affiliated rooms draw in about 110 simultaneously active cash game players.

PokerStars

PokerStars, one of the global leaders in online poker, teamed up with Resorts AC to bring us the New Jersey version of its poker platform. Though the software is just as smooth and slick as that being used elsewhere in the world, the population figures just aren't up to par. PokerStars NJ is only able to attract around 90 cash gamers at once to its online platform as compared to 4,400 in the global PokerStars.com liquidity pool.

Pala Poker

Pala Poker is a bit of an odd duck in that it uses a license provided by the Borgata Hotel Casino in Atlantic City; yet, it maintains traffic separate from the other three poker sites that have partnered with the Borgata, and it has its own proprietary software too. The level of poker action is insignificant, amounting to no more than a dozen real money players typically active.

Pennsylvania

Outline Map of Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania passed online gaming legislation in October 2017, but delays in crafting the poker regulations and awarding licenses meant that the first Pennsylvania-licensed online poker site opened for business in November 2019. Since then, several other competitors have taken to the field, but all of their PA games remain constrained to this single state for now.

PokerStars

Perhaps because it was the first to open its doors in the Keystone State, PokerStars retains the lead in player population with approximately 220 players on average filling up its cash games. It operates its cardroom under a license provided through Mount Airy Casino Resort in Mount Pocono, PA.

WSOP.com

The Pennsylvania division of the WSOP.com cardroom sees approximately 70 players, on average, in its cash games. It runs on 888 software, the same platform that powers the All American Poker Network, but until Pennsylvania joins the MSIGA, these players are ring-fenced and only able to compete against other Pennsylvanians. WSOP.com's B&M partner is Harrah's Philadelphia.

BetMGM/Borgata

BetMGM and Borgata are two skins of the same poker product, running on partypoker software. BetMGM is partnered with Hollywood Casino in Grantville while Borgata PA is run in conjunction with Rivers Philadelphia. Notwithstanding their relationships with these two land-based casino enterprises, both BetMGM and Borgata Pennsylvania reward their players through the MGM Rewards program rather than the rewards systems in place at their B&M partners. BetMGM + Borgata combined draw in an average of just 35 individuals to their ring game tables.

Michigan

Michigan Map

MI Governor Whitmer signed a package of igaming bills into law in December 2019. The first state-licensed internet poker site then appeared in January 2021 followed by several others.

Michigan has been accepted into the MSIGA pending the conclusion of some routine paperwork, and so we expect the below sites to soon combine their player liquidity with their counterparts in other states. For now, they each remain separate from any other state's player pools.

PokerStars

Benefiting from first-mover advantage, PokerStars has grown to become the largest legalized Michigan online poker site. There are about 160 cash game players active at the same time on average. PokerStars signed an agreement with the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians (with terrestrial casinos in Petowsky and Mackinaw City) to bring this online poker room to fruition.

BetMGM

BetMGM MI, which uses software from partypoker and a license from MGM Grand Detroit, is in second place in terms of MI player counts with 80 individuals simultaneously occupying cash game seats. Its users are kept apart from their counterparts in other states although they do benefit from nation-wide promotions and rewards under the MGM Rewards loyalty club.

WSOP.com

The newest Michigan-licensed online poker organization, WSOP.com, is owned by Caesars and uses a software client from 888. This iteration of the WSOP poker room is separate from the others that are active in different states, and the MI-specific player pool musters just about 70 cash game competitors at any one time. WSOP Michigan uses a license obtained by the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, which owns Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel in Williamsburg and the Leelanau Sands Casino & Lodge in Peshawbestown.

West Virginia

Map of WV

Although West Virginia provided for the possibility of licensed internet poker in its gaming bill (H2934), no online poker sites have begun to transact in the state. BetMGM, which already offers poker in several states, and FanDuel, which has close ties to PokerStars, have successfully launched WV online casinos. Therefore, the two of them may eventually get around to debuting their poker product in The Mountain State. If West Virginia signs the MSIGA, this will undoubtedly make West Virginia online poker a more appealing prospect for would-be operators.

Connecticut

CT Outline Map

The newest state to have passed online poker regulation, Connecticut hasn't yet seen any instate internet poker sites open up. Connecticut is on the smaller size, in terms of both area and population, and so it's probably not a priority for leading poker firms although this situation could change if it signs the MSIGA.

History of the MSIGA

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Three states led the way in legalizing licensed online gaming within their borders: New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada. Delaware actually passed the necessary legislation in 2012, living up to its nickname as The First State, followed by Nevada and New Jersey in 2013. By the end of 2013, interactive poker sites had begun dealing virtual games in all three states.

It soon became apparent, though, that the offerings available in each of these states were lackluster when compared to what was available in the rest of the world. Experts highlighted the ring-fenced nature of these poker sites as a major factor limiting their growth. With players in each jurisdiction having to participate in games restricted to people in the same state, there simply wasn't enough liquidity present to grow any room beyond a certain critical mass.

Nevada and Delaware Take Action

It was with the future of the industry in mind that Delaware and Nevada crafted the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement and at the same time created the Multi-State Internet Gaming Association to manage the affairs of the parties to the Agreement. In February 2014, they singed this compact, which allowed online poker providers in more than one state to pool their players across both states in order to boost traffic figures and lead to a more sustainable internet poker ecosystem.

The fact that the contract to run Delaware online poker was awarded to a single company, 888 Holdings, meant that this operator was basically the only one that could benefit from the MSIGA. In March 2015, 888 joined its three DE sites to WSOP.com Nevada, creating a single multi-jurisdictional player population combining the four poker rooms.

With Delaware poker responsible for around 8 cash game players on average and WSOP NV counting 152 at this time, the impact of the Agreement was pretty limited. Delaware was the big winner as its traffic, barely enough to populate one table, was basically multiplied by 20 while Nevada saw just a miniscule bump in numbers.

New Jersey Enters the Picture

Meanwhile, New Jersey's regulated poker sites were demonstrating success to the point that single sites in New Jersey were often larger than all the rooms in Nevada and Delaware combined. Clearly, The Garden State was the big prize for the leaders of the Multi-State Internet Gaming Association to bring onboard.

It took a while, but New Jersey joined the MSIGA in October 2017. By May 2018, the technical details of implementing NJ traffic sharing had been worked out, and so the state joined the combined player pool at this time.

Bringing New Jersey into the fold was a big coup for the MSIGA. Nevertheless, the benefits were confined to a single organization, 888, which was still the only one that managed an online poker presence in more than one of the signatory states.

New Internet Gaming Licensed States

After five years with little news on regulated U.S.A. online gambling expansion, several new states began to regulate poker over the internet. Pennsylvania did so in October 2017, followed by Michigan and West Virginia in 2019 and Connecticut in 2021.

It generally takes some time from the passage of igaming legislation until the first sites are up and running. Pennsylvania and Michigan have seen licensed internet poker rooms appear, but as of April 2022, we are still waiting for them to launch in West Virginia and Connecticut.

Michigan Approved to Join MSIGA

For a while, there was much speculation as to whether Pennsylvania or Michigan would be next to join the MSIGA. This question was answered in April 2022 when the news came that Michigan was accepted by the existing members to become the fourth state in the Agreement.

We are still waiting on a couple of procedural steps before Michigan is officially a member of the compact. Once that happens, there will likely be a delay of a few weeks to months while gaming firms receive approval for and adjust their platforms to be able to support cross-border play. We'll stay on top of these developments and let you know when Michigan's player pools are joined to those of the other three states.

Future of the MSIGA

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Starting as a very limited agreement between two small states, the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement has gained more importance as it has added new members. The pending accession of Michigan to the MSIGA has the potential to kick off a new mini-poker boom because Michigan's population is greater than that of any existing party to the Agreement.

For what it's worth, the biggest internet poker destinations for most American players are still offshore rooms. There's nothing in the law that criminalizes playing at these sites even though they are not explicitly legal like the state-regulated ones are.

Until the MSIGA really gathers some steam (when Michigan officially becomes a member and perhaps with the future addition of Pennsylvania), offshore brands are probably the best solution for many residents of the United States. To learn more about them and how you can sign up and play, check out our guide to U.S.A. online poker.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Like many legal documents, the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement has many subtleties that are not immediately apparent. If you still have questions about it, look below where we have gathered the answers to some common inquiries about the MSIGA.

As of April 2022, Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey have signed the MSIGA. Michigan has been approved to join, but it has not yet signed. Michigan's entry into the compact is expected sooner rather than later.

According to the terms of the MSIGA, rake is assigned to each player in cash games using a weighted contributed methodology. For tournaments, each player is considered to have paid his own entry fee. The revenue from each player is treated as being generated in the state from which that individual has logged on to the system. The poker revenue thus assigned is collected every month and then distributed to each participating state, which then levies its own taxes or fees on it in accordance with that state's gaming laws.

The MSIGA was drafted with poker in mind. Therefore, the real meat of the text is devoted to matters related to online poker. There are a few references to casino gaming and how the members will treat cross-border internet casino games should they be implemented, but right now, casino games aren't being shared in the same way that poker player pools are.

This makes sense because in most cases, slots and other casino games do not require a large pool of participants; these games can run with just a single player. There may be an exception for the rapidly growing category of Live Dealer games, but thus far, nothing solid has materialized for combining state traffic in this way.

Yes, there are two ways for a state to be removed from the MSIGA. The first is that a state can voluntarily leave the Agreement as long as it provides at least 60 days' written notice. Secondly, a state can be expelled if 75% or more of the members so vote (excluding the representative of the state in question who is expected to recuse himself or herself from any such vote).

No state has yet joined the MSIGA and then left, so these provisions of the MSIGA have proven moot so far.

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