Two-Day Shutdown for PokerStars Michigan to Prepare for Shared Liquidity

Michigan poker players received some good news and some bad news on Friday, Dec 9. In this case, however, the good news far outweighs the bad.

The bad news is that PokerStars will be down for scheduled maintenance for two whole days. That’s a veritable eternity in the world of online gambling, where typical server updates take place quickly and in the early morning hours when few players are online.

However, the good news is that there’s a reason the servers require such a major update. That’s because PokerStars is preparing to become the first of the three Michigan poker rooms to start sharing traffic with New Jersey.

The shutdown also affects PokerStars Casino and Fox BetThe corresponding NJ sites will similarly be unavailable during that period.

Players who have opted into the 25 Days of Poker promotion will still receive their rewards for those days after the servers are back online. The site may also reschedule some marquee tournaments after the update.

When Will Traffic Sharing With NJ Begin?

Multi-state poker has been a long time coming. Michigan’s online gambling market launched in January 2021. However, well before then, the state had already passed a bill to make traffic sharing possible.

The state’s original Lawful Internet Gaming Act forbade the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) from entering multi-state compacts. However, the intent of this was only to prevent multi-state slots jackpots from rivaling lotteries like Powerball and Mega Millions. Lawmakers swiftly clarified that with a second piece of legislation to carve out an exception for poker.

However, the MGCB then needed to join the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA). To do so, it had to negotiate terms with the three existing parties to that compact, New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware.

That took over a year, but the day finally came this spring. At the time, the hope was that the remaining technical and regulatory steps would be swift and networks would be live within the year.

Those hopes have been steadily dwindling, only to be rekindled by Friday’s announcement.

It’s still not a given that the first interstate hands will be dealt before New Year’s Day, however. The wording implies that the new network won’t be active immediately upon the restoration of service on Dec 14. Instead, it uses phrases like “in the coming weeks” and “in the near future.”

Still, if it doesn’t happen in 2022, it will surely happen in the very first days of 2023.

How Big Will the New PokerStars Network Be?

Once New Jersey and Michigan players are sitting together, PokerStars will be the second multi-state poker network in the US. It may also be the biggest, at least for a while.

WSOP already operates such a network, linking the original three states of the MSIGA. PokerStars has been unable to do so because its pre-2011 activities in the US have rendered it ineligible for a Nevada license. Meanwhile, Delaware’s market is a monopoly for the state lottery, which – like WSOP – has 888 Holdings as its technology partner.

PokerStars is the most popular poker operator in Michigan, with about as much traffic as WSOP and BetMGM Poker combined.

However, don’t expect traffic to double, at least not right away. The situation in New Jersey is very different. There, PokerStars was a latecomer, launching two years later than WSOP. Meanwhile, WSOP’s ability to include players from two other states makes it the most popular choice.

Adding New Jersey will likely only increase PokerStars Michigan traffic by about 50% at first. However, being the first to link the two states is likely to boost traffic at both ends, so the final player pool may be bigger than simple addition suggests.

Even just adding the players together would produce a round-the-clock average of around 240 cash game players, very similar to WSOP’s current network. Any additional gains would make PokerStars the leader temporarily.

Once WSOP adds Michigan – which should probably happen next year – it will likely have a total of around 300. However, its unique selling point will no longer be unique, and it may start to lose New Jersey market share as a result. And if Pennsylvania joins the other states eventually, then PokerStars will be the clear leader.

About the Author

Alex Weldon

Alex Weldon is the Casino News Editor for Michigan Sharp. He’s a former semiprofessional poker player and has been writing about online gambling professionally since 2014. Alex provides insightful content on the regulated online casino and poker industries, with an emphasis on legislation, regulation, responsible gambling and business strategy. His writing about poker has earned him multiple nominations for the American Poker Awards over the years.