In this guide, we’ve outlined everything you need to know about the Michigan online poker industry, the sites likely to go live, the rules and more. We’ve also added reviews and links to all the top legal sites in the state. Basically, this is your one-stop-shop for all thing’s online poker in Michigan.
Update: Online gambling launch date for Michigan is Friday, January 22, 2021.
COVID-19 has stifled the progressive of Michigan’s gambling laws in 2020 and 2021. Even though the wheels are in motion, a launch date is still unclear. This was the case before the pandemic, but the shutdown of businesses and services hasn’t helped. That being said, the first Michigan card rooms, including PokerStars MI and partypoker MI, and BETMGM are expected to go live in 2021. As legalization of online gambling was a go for January 22, 2021. Check back here regularly for updates and the latest card room reviews.
Legal online poker in Michigan is on the horizon. With the rules and regulations being finalized, operators are currently lining up to grab a piece of the action. Naturally, until all the I’s have been dotted and T’s crossed, we can’t say for certain which operators will go live in the state. However, there are some things we know for sure.
Firstly, PokerStars has partnered with the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians Gaming Authority. This deal gives PokerStars and its sister sites, FoxBet and FanDuel, access to the state. We also know that partypoker has a deal with MGM Grand Detroit by virtue of the two companies being linked under the Roar Digital banner.
We know 888Poker and WSOP.com aren’t on the initial list of 50 license applicants. This may change in the future. Indeed, 888Poker and WSOP.com are active in almost all legal US poker states, including New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware. However, for now, it doesn’t look like either operator will be part of the initial launch.
There are other applicants as well. William Hill and Betfair are a virtual lock to go live in Michigan, as are DraftKings, Sugarhouse, Scientific Games, and BetMGM. However, none of these are likely to offer internet poker and, instead, will focus on casino games and sports betting. Finally, we know that Michigan’s three commercial casinos and 12 tribal casinos will be able to offer two online platforms each.
These operators may be able to share players with networks in other states, but nothing has been decided yet. Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. has said there is a desire to offer multi-state pooling for poker. If the bill is approved, it would mean Michigan online poker sites could share players with their counterparts in Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware.
PokerStars is part of the gaming giant that is Flutter Entertainment. Previously, as part of the Stars Group, it was one of the largest poker and betting companies in the world. However, following a merger with Paddy Power Betfair in 2020, it became an even bigger entity. Under the wing of Flutter Entertainment, PokerStars is cutting deals in the US and swooping into more states than ever.
Michigan will be part of the company’s US expansion efforts thanks to a deal with the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians Gaming Authority. Together, they’ll offer poker games, casino, and sports betting. For poker fans, that means cash games across all variants, including Hold’em, Omaha, Stud, Draw, and Mix Games. It also means you’ll get to play fast-fold poker (Zoom = where you’re moved to a new table each time you fold).
There will also be sit & go tournaments, MTTs, and, of course, Spin & Go tournaments. MTTs are significant because PokerStars is renowned for setting six, seven, and eight-figure guarantees. Indeed, if intrastate liquidity sharing pacts are agreed, these will be more than possible. Finally, Spin & Go tournaments are your chance to buy in for a small price and play for random prizepools worth up to $1 million.
partypoker has been an operator on the rise over the last five years. When the industry was in its infancy, partypoker quickly became the biggest site in the world. Over time, PokerStars took that crown and Party slipped down the rankings. However, after revamping its product and introducing new features, partypoker is back among the top names in the business.
There are many reasons partypoker’s software has struck a chord with players. Firstly, the use of tracking software is prohibited. This means pros and those playing with the aid of a third-party program can’t get an unfair advantage. For the newbies and novices out there, this is great news. In fact, partypoker has also become one of the biggest opponents of bots in recent years. A new task force was brought in to stop cheats and it’s been hugely successful.
Away from these subtle nuances, partypoker Michigan will feature cash games, tournaments, and lottery-style sit & gos (SPINS). Add to these options a wealth of satellites for partypoker LIVE events, leaderboard promos, and annual events like Millions Online, and there’s a ton of opportunities and added value at this site.
Online poker in Michigan is a rapidly evolving entity. Even though WSOP.com (and 888Poker) are active in other states, they aren’t on the list of applications vying for one of the first MI online poker licenses. What’s more, it doesn’t have a partnership with a local operator. This could change and, in time, it probably will. However, for now, it’s unlikely you’ll get to play at WSOP.com when the first Michigan online poker sites go live.
Michigan legal online poker is a mixed bag. Yes, there will be licensed real-money sites, but there’s also another option. Known as sweepstakes poker, this option allows you to play for free and stay within the confines of the law. Leading the charge is Global Poker, a platform that’s legal in 49 US states, including Michigan.
The reason Global Poker is legal in Michigan is because it follows US sweepstakes laws. Basically, you purchase packs of gold coins instead of making deposits. These coins don’t have any real-world value, but you can use them to play cash games and tournaments. This dynamic makes it a free-play site.
Alongside coins you also get sweeps. Sweeps can be exchanged for gift vouchers that do have some real-world value. It’s not technically the same as withdrawing your winnings from a real-money site, but it’s close. You can choose to receive your vouchers electronically or physically. Either way, you’re getting some type of return on your investment. But, importantly, the model is such that you’re not breaking the law.
In terms of what Global Poker offers, it’s just like any other site. There are cash games and tournaments. The latter often have quirky names like Bonanza, which tells you this site is aimed at newbies and novices. That makes it an ideal place to hone your skills and have some fun. Our tip is to make use of this free online poker Michigan site before testing your skills at PokerStars MI et al.
Online poker in Michigan is legal. Thanks to Governor Gretchen Whitmer, local operators can partner with online brands and offer digital poker, casino gaming, and sports betting. The law states that tribal and commercial casinos in the state can offer these products in conjunction with an online partner. The licensing fee is $150,000 ($50,000 application fee + $100,000 initial licensing fee). Operators are then required to pay $50,000 every year to renew their license, as well as tax on gross receipts of between 20% and 28%.
Alongside these rules and regulations, Michigan online poker bill 4311 also states the following:
Michigan poker laws state that players have to be old enough and in the right location to ante up. Specifically, you have to be 21+ and based in Michigan. You don’t have to live in the Great Lake State, but you will need to be within the region if you want to register and play. To facilitate this and ensure operators don’t contravene Michigan online poker legislation, two things are in place:
When you join one of our recommended Michigan online poker sites, you’ll be asked to provide details of your name, age, address, and social security number. The site’s security software will check these details against national databases to confirm everything lines up.
Additionally, when you request your first withdrawal, you’ll have to submit a copy of your ID. This will be used to confirm your details against what’s been submitted. You only have to do this once. If everything checks out, you can pay, play, and withdraw at will.
It’s not enough to say you’re in the state. Each time you play online poker in Michigan, geolocation software is activated. This will either take place in the background or overtly. Either way, you’ll have to allow the geolocation software to access your IP address and, therefore, your location.Assuming you’re in Michigan, the site will work. If you’re not, it won’t. Any attempt to circumvent the geolocation software will cause you to lose your account. What’s more, it will open you up to cheats. Michigan poker laws are designed to protect everyone. Therefore, by breaking the rules, you’re putting yourself at risk.
The history of online poker in Michigan goes back to 2006 and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). Part of the SAFE Port Act designed to stop terrorists laundering money online, UIGEA made it illegal for offshore operators to process funds from American players. The law didn’t make poker illegal. However, by cutting it off at the source (i.e. making deposits and withdrawals illegal), the industry crumbled.
Some operators exited the US, others stayed. Those that stayed eventually found themselves entangled in a legal battle with the Department of Justice (DOJ). In 2011, the DOJ unsealed indictments against poker sites active in the US. This became known as Black Friday and brought an end to online poker in America on a national scale. However, the same year, various state lotteries pushed for clarification on the Wire Act.
These lottery operators wanted to know if the Wire Act prevented them from selling tickets online. The DOJ concluded that the law only applied to cross-state wire communications related to sports betting. This opened the door to a state-based regulatory system. In essence, the DOJ’s 2011 opinion meant states could offer poker and casino online gaming if they wanted to.
States such as Nevada and New Jersey were quick to seize the initiative. Michigan followed in 2016 courtesy of Senator Mike Kowall. He introduced SB 889 in April 2016. Although his Lawful Internet Gaming Act didn’t make it through the Senate or House, it got the ball rolling.
The Lawful Internet Gaming Act was revived, in part, by Governor Rick Snyder in 2018. The updated bill included provisions for sports betting as well as poker and casino gaming. It also contained provisions for a new regulatory body known as the Michigan Division of Internet Gambling. The bill was approved in December 2018 but, for some reason, Snyder vetoed it.
Snyder’s unexpected move could have been the death knell for Michigan poker rooms, but it wasn’t. In 2019, HB 4311 basically packaged up the Lawful Internet Gaming Act and the Lawful Sports Betting Act.
With the Supreme Court ruling that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) violated states’ rights, there was nothing to stop HB 4311. Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed the bill into law on December 20, 2019. Since then, lawmakers have been working to finalize the nuances of what’s permissible and, in turn, vet prospective Michigan poker operators.
During a meeting of the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) on January 12, 2021, Executive Director Richard Kalm stated, “We’re very close. I wish I could give an exact day and time, but each day that changes.” So we're expecting to hear word of this any day now with speculation for news coming in before the end of January. “Most operators will launch online gaming and sports betting simultaneously,” Kalm said. So when we finally do hear the official launch date, we expect poker online to lag behind the other games by “four to five days.”
This news comes just over a year since Governor Whitmer signed the bill. But in comparison, New Jersey took 9 months and Pennsylvania took almost 20 months. However, Michigan players will be able to place real cash wagers within days of Michigan casino, betting and poker becoming legal. And you can bet on the top poker rooms to become available in the state. Think of the likes of PokerStars who are already working on regulation - and BetMGM, William Hill and partypoker who have already hinted at opening up in new states.
Suddenly news cam that Michigan online gambling was a go from January 22, 2021 - noon. This means players can now start depositing and playing at nine major gambling brands: BetMGM, BetRivers, DraftKings, FanDuel, Golden Nugget, TwinSpires (formerly BetAmerica), William Hill and WynnBET. Right now it's betting and casino. We're expecting poker to follow any day, particularly at BetMGM and William Hill.
Regarding shared liquidity, Kalm says “I don’t expect that to be launched anytime soon...In fact, maybe the end of 2021.”
Legal online card rooms in Michigan should be your first and only port of call for a multitude of reasons. Even if you find an illegal site with offers that seem too good to be true, you shouldn’t run the risk of using them. Why? Well, here are a few reasons why licensed Michigan online poker sites are the only option:
Card rooms licensed in Michigan have to go through a series of stringent checks. To even be considered for a license, operators have to have a reputable partner based in the state, pay a fee, and submit documents proving their software is legit. Once licensed, an operator can’t abandon its duties. Checks are carried out on a regular basis and, if the operator can’t follow the rules, they lose their license. Therefore, you can be confident that every legit Michigan poker room will have SSL encryption, reputable payment processors, and games certified as fair by third-party agencies.
Unlicensed sites will often have bonuses that look impressive on first inspection. However, when you dig down into the details, the wagering conditions are almost impossible to meet. Legal poker rooms in Michigan can’t do things like that. Although there are not set standards, all licensees have an obligation to be fair. This means promotional terms and conditions can’t be overly restrictive.
If an operator takes the time to apply for a license, there’s a good chance it will take the time to craft a world-class poker platform. When you look at names like PokerStars and partypoker Michigan, these companies didn’t pop up overnight. They’ve been refining their products for years in countries around the world. Because of that, they’re able to offer a high-quality service. From games to software, everything will be slick, stable, and safe. That’s why you should use legal poker apps.
Live poker is great but, in some ways, Michigan poker online is better…
If you want to play for smaller stakes, Michigan online poker sites are perfect. Live poker rooms have bigger overheads and costs. This means the smallest stakes they offer have to be higher than they are online. In general, live games start around the $1/1 mark. Online, you can play cash games for as little as $0.01/$0.02.
Michigan poker rooms online have hundreds of games. From cash tables and tournaments to novel innovations such as Spin & Go, SPINS, and Zoom, the apps are awash with options. Add to this access to casino games and sports betting, and there’s literally something for everyone.
Live poker rooms in Michigan are safe. However, you’re equally safe online. Random number generators (RNGs) provide random results that are, in many ways, more random than a human dealer. Add to this SSL encryption, safe payment processors, identity checks, deposits limits, and 24/7 security surveillance, and there’s no doubt the platforms are safe.
Michigan could become one of the leading regulated poker states in the US. As it stands, New Jersey is the top dog for three reasons. Firstly, it’s been active since 2013. Secondly, it has a population of almost nine million. Finally, it has liquidity sharing pacts with Nevada and Delaware. These factors help the leading New Jersey sites have around 500 players logged in at any one time.
Michigan has a population close to ten million. It’s also set to welcome some of the world’s best-known poker brands, including PokerStars and partypoker. This suggests traffic will at least match what New Jersey’s finest achieve. However, the crucial part of the equation that’s missing is liquidity sharing. This will probably happen in the future, but it’s not certain - although there are talks already underway as of the start of 2021. Because if Michigan’s poker rooms want to attract enough players, it’s something they should be pushing for.
Michigan poker tournaments will cover the full spectrum of options. PokerStars and partypoker are known for offering low stakes MTTs, weekly majors with guarantees worth more than $100,000, and annual events. This means you’ll get a steady stream of tournaments at all levels. From $0.10 to $100+, there will be something for everyone.
The likelihood is that Michigan cash games will mainly run at low and mid stakes. Specifically, Hold’em and Omaha tables at $1/$2 and below will be popular. We know PokerStars has some higher stakes games in other states ($3/$6 and above), as well as Stud and Draw tables. Therefore, you should be able to find something that piques your interest.
Standard, turbo, six-max, and heads-up. Whatever your preferences, there will be a sit & go to suit. The games you really need to look out for are lottery-style sit & go tournaments like SPINS and Spin & Go. These short-handed tables feature three to four players and random prizepools. At the top end, you could win prizes worth more than 10,000X your buy-in.
Poker freerolls will be available for newbies and existing players. These games allow you to enter for free and win a cash prize. You’ll often have to complete a task, such as making a deposit, to receive a freeroll ticket.
You’ll have to verify your identity before making a deposit or withdrawal at any legal site in Michigan. Once you’ve done that, you can follow these steps to add funds to your account or cash out your winnings:
All MI poker rooms online are safe and fair. As we’ve said, SSL encryption technology comes as standard. This will protect your personal and financial details. You’ll also be able to use reputable payment processors that are regulated by financial watchdogs. Finally, every game is controlled by random number generators (RNGs). RNGs use complex algorithms to spit out random results. This means every hand dealt is 100% fair.