Michigan Online Poker Expected to Go Live in 2021 as Regulatory Process Looms

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Michigan lawmakers approved online poker, sports betting, and online casinos in December, but gamblers shouldn’t expect to participate in those activities until 2021.

Michigan Online Poker 2021
Michigan online poker players have a long wait ahead of them, as the first sites are unlikely to go live before 2021. (Image: CashIsClay1/Reddit)

Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) Communications Specialist, Mary Kay Bean, told The Detroit News that the regulatory process necessary to set rules for online poker and other internet gambling offerings would take time to complete, likely delaying their launch for at least a year.

Michigan Won’t Expedite Rule-Making Process

Some states have accelerated regulatory timelines by finding ways to expedite the rule-making and licensing approval processes. Bean says that won’t be the case in Michigan.

The MGCB is following the regular rules process, which provides opportunities for stakeholder and public input – holding a public hearing and offering a public comment period – and to file a regulatory impact statement,” Bean told The Detroit News. “All of these elements are missed when emergency rules are approved.”

Michigan plans to get land-based sports betting up and running more quickly. Bean says that if all goes well, the first live sportsbooks could be in operation by sometime this spring.

Lawmakers understand the timeline, but say it’s unfortunate that Michigan will have to wait for the full menu of expanded gaming options – and the revenue that comes with them.

“Until we’re fully integrated online, I don’t think we’ll be able to capitalize on revenue,” Rep. Brandt Iden (R-Oshtemo Township) told The Detroit News. “But from a consumer protection standpoint, from getting players interested, certainly getting up and going in person is helpful.”

Online Poker Shouldn’t Lag Behind Sports Betting

Poker shouldn’t lag behind casino and sports betting when it comes to online approval, however. Bean told Online Poker Report that the rules process for each vertical should move forward at about the same pace, meaning all internet gaming sites should be able to go live around the same time.

That represents good news for poker players, who often see their favorite game take a back seat to sports betting when it comes to gaming expansion in the United States.

The Lawful Internet Gaming Act authorizes commercial casinos and Native American tribes to offer a wide range of new gambling options. Three casinos and a dozen tribes can now receive online poker and casino licenses. No operator can begin offering internet gaming until at least one commercial and one tribal casino have received a license.

Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed an online gambling bill in 2018, citing fears that internet gaming revenue might cannibalize business from the state lottery and land-based casinos. Current Gov. Gretchen Whitmer expressed similar concerns, but she signed the new bill in December after compromises were made to help protect online lottery sales in the state.

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