Michigan Could Launch Online Poker in 2020
Ongoing efforts to legalize online gambling in Michigan have made significant progress lately, with the original 2021 launch date now being moved to as early as 2020.
However, while online poker operators can potentially begin serving customers this fall, their offerings might only be limited to in-state players, meaning a shared player pool won’t be an option.
The Wolverine State officially made a foray into online gambling in 2019 after an act seeking to legalize online gambling was signed into law. A launch was scheduled for 2021, however the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic might have pressured lawmakers to make online gambling launch a priority this year, with the closure of revenue-generating land-based casinos dealing a huge blow to the state’s economy.
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Recouping Lost Revenue
In 2019, casinos in Michigan generated almost $118 million in taxes to the state, a massive contribution to the government’s budget and finances. But the flow of revenue was disrupted when state-wide lockdowns have been imposed since mid-March, which forced commercial casinos to temporarily stop their operations. Now, all eyes are on the online front as it currently enjoys a boost amid the global health crisis.
This is likely the main reason why Michigan has fast-tracked the iGaming launch. Online gambling will generate much needed money for the state in this time of crisis. In New Jersey for example, online poker is an industry worth $4 million a month, and that does not include revenue generated by other online gaming verticals like sports betting and slots. Michigan’s population is quite similar in size with New Jersey.
No Shared Player Pool Immediately
As legal online poker makes progress in the U.S, many have been waiting to see another player pool being added to the existing Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement which is currently in effect between New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware. But players may have to wait a little longer before this happens as Michigan will most likely set up a ring-fenced market if the launch goes ahead this year, the same step taken by Pennsylvania.
While the first draft of the rules for operators has made it obvious that Michigan is still not prepared to take part in the shared liquidity, a state senator said they’re not entirely shutting the door on that option.
The latest interpretation of the Wire Act has caused legal confusion which is likely the main reason why other states are still hesitant to join the shared pool. But for the time being, legalizing online poker even in ring-fenced markets across the US is a welcome development and will still bring huge benefits to both the government and the people.