Michigan lawmakers already set the pieces in place for a future that includes interstate poker. The passage of a multijurisdictional online poker bill in January opened the door for Michigan’s online poker operators to share player pools with other states.
One final obstacle stood in the way, however, as the US Department of Justice issued an opinion on the federal Wire Act in 2018 that attempted to outlaw all interstate gambling transactions. A Thursday announcement from the First District Court of Appeals indicated that the DOJ would not appeal a January ruling that effectively overturned the 2018 opinion.
The DOJ opinion applied the Wire Act to all forms of interstate gambling transactions. The New Hampshire Lottery led a group of various lottery interests in a 2019 lawsuit against the DOJ, with that case making it to the First District Court of Appeals.
The court ruled in favor of the New Hampshire Lottery in January, leaving the DOJ with the option to appeal the ruling or accept the current implementation of the Wire Act. The DOJ won’t appeal, meaning that the language of the Wire Act only applies to sports betting transactions.
Thursday’s announcement marks a huge victory for state lotteries and online poker operators.
What Thursday’s Announcement Means For Michigan Online Poker
Michigan’s multijurisdictional online poker bill showed that state gaming regulators likely expected federal clearance for shared interstate player pools at some point. Michigan’s first regulated online poker site launched in January, with PokerStars Michigan going live.
BetMGM Poker will join the ranks of Michigan’s legal poker sites as well. Both PokerStars and BetMGM operate poker sites in other states, and both could potentially link their Michigan platforms to their other US sites.
Prospective merged US online poker networks could include:
Partypoker US Network – BetMGM Poker Michigan could share player pools with the partypoker US Network, a New Jersey network of linked poker sites under the Roar Digital banner. BetMGM/partypoker is also expected to launch in Pennsylvania sometime soon, but Pennsylvania would have to pass its own multijurisdictional poker bill for any of its regulated poker sites to share interstate player pools.
PokerStars USA Network – PokerStars currently acts as the lone regulated online poker operator in both Pennsylvania and Michigan. PokerStars also operates in New Jersey, and Thursday’s announcement clears the way for PokerStars to potentially merge their Michigan and New Jersey networks.
WSOP/888poker Network – WSOP.com and 888poker currently form the only operational multi-state poker network in the US. WSOP Nevada, WSOP New Jersey, and 888poker Delaware all share the same player pool. Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware operate under the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA), currently the only multi-state agreement of its kind in the US.
A potential WSOP Michigan site hasn’t been approved by the Michigan Gaming Control Board, but that could change in the future.