Michigan originally expected to start sharing poker traffic with NJ, DE and NV by the end of 2021

MGCB Unveils Considerations For Interstate Poker, Launch Date Still Unknown

Michigan poker players have been waiting since the launch of online poker to compete against players in other states.

Interstate poker compacting allows for access to larger prize and player pools. Michigan set an initial target to join Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey in pooling poker liquidity by the end of 2021. Impatience among players has been building since then.

Currently, Michigan’s online poker players can only play against one another. However, signs that things are about to change appear to be afoot. The Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) recently published a new page on its website. It is titled: Potential Tasks and Considerations for Operators and Platform Providers.

This is, in effect, a primer for operators, in preparation for Michigan’s presumably imminent entry into the multistate agreement.

What is the big deal about compacts?

The Multi-State Internet Gaming Compact began in 2015 when Delaware and Nevada reached an agreement to share liquidity across state lines. The compact subsequently expanded to include New Jersey in 2017.

The sharing of player pools across state lines ensures an adequate number of players sitting at tables. Stand-alone sites, particularly in smaller states, sometimes struggle to find enough users to populate the tables. More traffic creates a better player experience, and interstate traffic sharing helps with this.

For a while now, the popular belief has been that Michigan will be the next to join the multi-state agreement, though the state has never provided a specific timeline. Hope for the ongoing expansion of the multi-state agreement has been helped by a First Circuit Court of Appeals decision that the Federal Wire Act applies only to sports betting.

That decision corrected an erroneous 2018 Department of Justice memorandum which caused uncertainty and fear across the industry.

Signs that things are happening

This week the Michigan Gaming Control Board provided guidance for operators ahead of a yet-to-be-announced launch date.

The guidance notes a few broad guidelines straight off. Firstly, Michiganders will not be playing with expanded player pools in any game other than poker.

Secondly, those hoping to sit down at a virtual table with some friends across the Ambassador Bridge will be out of luck. Although Ontario online poker is launching soon, the guidance makes it clear that the Gaming Control Board is not authorizing agreements outside of the United States. The point may be moot, as, Ontario has also shot down the idea of an international poker compact.

Setting the conditions for launch

The document states that an operator may not enter the multistate market until three events have occurred.

  1. The Gaming Control Board approves a multi-jurisdictional compact, and it subsequently becomes effective;
  2. Operators, platforms, and suppliers meet all the requirements established by the Gaming Control Board; and
  3. The Gaming Control Board gives the operator express approval to launch in the marketplace.

How operators can get in on the action

The document outlines potential tasks that an operator may need to complete to enter the multistate market. However, MGCB observes that these tasks or considerations may not be the same for every operator.

The document outlines a few different scenarios that illustrate why some companies might face more burdens than others.

  • First, An operator not currently operating online poker in Michigan may want to enter the multistate market
  • Second, an operator currently offering poker in Michigan may want to launch new platform specifically for the multistate market
  • Third, an operator currently operating in Michigan may want to access the market via a remote gaming system; and
  • Finally, an operator may want to submit a new software for approval or to use software already approved by the Board in the multistate market.

MGCB will consider numerous factors to decide what each operator needs to do. These include the system architecture, the operational methodology, and the sufficiency of current licenses.

Key topics

The document lists 20 areas in which operators may have work to do before launching a multistate network.

Among the most significant requirements is ensuring that the software is up-to-date and meets the requirements of every state in the compact. Any new software that operators expect to use will need MGCB approval before launch.

In addition to ensuring that adequate geo-fencing is in place, multistate live games will need to meet the Board’s standards for the live game regulatory framework. This is true even if the live game is set outside of Michigan.

The document notes that operators will be required to notify the Board of any new tournaments it intends on offering on the multistate network. However, it doesn’t say that tournaments require pre-approval.

Naturally, no operator may launch without obtaining prior approval of the board. This seems obvious, but the MGCB sees it as sufficiently important that it repeats it multiple times throughout the document.

- John Holden J.D. / Ph.D. is an academic. His research focuses on policy issues surrounding sports corruption.
Privacy Policy