After legalizing casinos in the 1990s and becoming home to many live poker rooms in 2019, Michigan became the sixth state in the US to pass legislation to allow legal online poker sites.
The Great Lakes State has produced many great poker players over the years, including two World Series of Poker Main Event champions. The 2009 winner, Joe Cada, was born in Shelby Charter Township, while the 2013 champ, Ryan Riess, was born in East Lansing.
What follows is an overview of poker in Michigan, covering the legality of online poker and future plans for online poker in Michigan. We also discuss the alternative option, sweepstakes sites and why you should avoid offshore online poker sites.
Finally, you’ll find a review of laws affecting various types of live and online poker in Michigan including a timeline, and a comprehensive list of card rooms in the state.
Yes, online poker is legal in Michigan. That said, it will likely be a while before the first real-money online poker sites launch in the state.
The Lawful Internet Gambling Act was signed into law in December 2019. In fact, it was a package of bills covering a variety of types of online gambling, including online poker.
The Michigan Gaming Control Board has provided a timeline detailing the various stages the board must complete before regulations can be implemented. The process, they say, will take more than a year, making early 2021 a target.
That said, when Michigan is ready for online poker sites, operators will be ready as well.
In early January, The Stars Group became partners with the Michigan-based Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians Gaming Authority to secure an online gambling license in the state.
However, those operators are all more likely to focus more on sports betting and/or online casinos than on online poker.
The Lawful Internet Gambling Act signed into law December 2019 includes “interactive poker” among the varieties of online “casino-style games” that licensed internet gaming operators will be allowed to provide.
The law authorizes the Michigan Gaming Control Board to “administer, regulate and enforce the system of internet gaming” it establishes. That means the state’s regulators are in charge of overseeing online sportsbooks, online casinos, daily fantasy sports and online poker in Michigan.
In other words, when legal Michigan poker sites arrive, it will be fully legal and regulated, which will help ensure the fairness of the games, the security of players’ funds and players’ protection against fraud.
Yes. An alternative option falls under the sweepstakes category. Sweepstakes poker sites exist as an alternative to real-money online poker. The most popular of which is Global Poker, a site that welcomes players from Michigan and almost every other state in the US (only excludes Washington).
Rather than using real money, sweepstakes sites employ virtual currencies to be able to serve US players. Global Poker, for instance, uses two types of virtual currencies: “gold coins” and “sweeps coins.”
Players purchase “gold coins,” which, when compared to real money poker sites, might be thought of as “play money.” These can be used in “gold coin” cash games or tournaments, although they have no actual monetary value.
However, when purchasing “gold coins,” players receive “sweeps coins” as a poker bonus. “Sweeps coins” can be obtained in other ways as well, such as through Facebook giveaways or even by writing Global Poker and requesting them (as is required of other kinds of sweepstakes).
“Sweeps coins” are usable to play “sweeps” cash games or tournaments, enabling players to win more of them. Then after accumulating a minimum amount, players can exchange “sweeps coins” for US dollars and cash out.
The short answer is no. Ever since April 2011 when the “Black Friday” indictments and civil complaint forced the world’s largest online poker sites out of the US, several other operators of varying sizes and quality have continued to accept US players.
These offshore online poker sites — because they all operate outside of the US — have varying reputations among players.
They also involve considerable obstacles when it comes to banking options since the sites have to work around the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, which restricts US banks and other financial service providers from allowing transactions with these non-US gambling sites.
These sites are not licensed or regulated in the US. As a result, players are at the mercy of the sites when it comes to the integrity and safety of their funds.
There have been multiple incidents of these “rogue” offshore sites that close and make off with players’ money. Players then have little or no recourse to try to recover their funds. Players on these sites also tend not to have options should they suspect cheating, collusion, ghosting, multi-accounting or other types of fraud.
By contrast, playing on a licensed and regulated Michigan poker site ensures careful monitoring and prohibition of such activities, making them a much safer alternative for online poker players.
Michigan is a poker-friendly state. Besides having passed legislation to introduce online poker, there are many ways players in Michigan can play live poker that is permitted by state law.
The Michigan Gaming Control and Revenue Act, signed into law in 1997, outlines what types of gambling are allowed in the state, including poker.
Among the types of gambling covered by that law are those falling under the heading of “casino gaming,” including “gambling games.”
A “gambling game” involves “any game played with cards, dice, equipment or a machine, including any mechanical, electromechanical or electronic device including computers and cashless wagering systems, for money, credit, or any representative of value.”
Yes, home poker games are legal in Michigan, as long as there is no collection of rake or fees.
The Michigan Gaming Control and Revenue Act explicitly allows “games played with cards in private homes or residences in which no person makes money for operating the game, except as a player.”
Michigan is home to three major commercial casinos and about two dozen tribal casinos, and practically all of which have poker rooms. In fact, there are several dozen brick-and-mortar cardrooms throughout the state, including those in casinos, bars, lodges, standalone poker rooms and charity poker rooms.
Here is a comprehensive list of more than 60 poker rooms in the state, all of which highlight no-limit hold’em primarily, although some cardrooms additionally spread fixed-limit hold’em and other games.
Larger rooms also often run daily or weekly tournaments, with the largest ones such as at the FireKeepers Casino Hotel occasionally hosting midmajor tournament series as well.
|5 Star Charity Poker Room||2666 Metro Pkwy., Sterling Heights, MI 48310||6|
|American Poker Room||46858 Dequindre Rd., Shelby Township, MI 48317||3|
|American Veterans 3652||3013 Bay City Rd., Midland, MI 48642||n/a|
|Auburn Poker Room||46858 Auburn Rd., Shelby, MI 48317||4|
|Bay Mills Resort & Casino||11386 West Lakeshore Dr., Brimley, MI 49715||4|
|Burton Eagles Poker Room||3317 East Bristol Rd., Burton, MI 48529||6|
|Caspian Gaastra Fire Hall||1 Museum Dr., Caspian, MI 49915||n/a|
|Ciccarelli's Sports Bar||46793 Hayes Rd., Utica, MI 48315||6|
|Eastbrook Lanes||3500 Lake Eastbrook Blvd. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546||n/a|
|Elks Lodge 889||300 Riverside Dr., Dowagiac, MI 49047||n/a|
|Elks Lodge 1381||66200 Grey Lake Rd., Sturgis, MI 49091||n/a|
|FireKeepers Casino Hotel||11177 E. Michigan Ave., Battle Creek, MI 49014||26|
|Freeland Sports Zone||5690 Midland Rd., Freeland, MI 48623||n/a|
|Grand Blanc Moose Lodge 2344||4043 Howe Rd., Grand Blanc, MI 48439||n/a|
|Greektown Casino Hotel||555 East Lafayette Blvd., Detroit, MI 48226||13|
|Gun Lake Casino||1123 129th Ave., Wayland, MI 49348||14|
|Huck's Pub||11358 West Main St., Rudyard, MI 49780||n/a|
|Huron Poker Room||5214 North US Hwy. 23, Oscoda, MI 48750||6|
|Island Casino||W399 US Hwy. 2, Harris, MI 49845||6|
|Jack's Place Charity Poker Room||2327 Wilson Ave. Southwest, Walker, MI 49534||n/a|
|Joey Armadillo's||2732 South 11th St., Niles, MI 49120||5|
|Kewadin Casino Sault Sainte Marie||2186 Shunk Rd., Sault Sainte Marie, MI 49783||4|
|Kimberley Oaks Golf Course||1100 West Walnut St., St. Charles, MI 48655||n/a|
|Krazy Kopz at Vision Lanes||38250 Ford Rd., Westland, MI 48185||10|
|Krazy Kopz at Westland Poker Room||500 South Merriman Rd., Westland, MI 48186||6|
|Langan's All Star Poker Room||257 Ladd Rd., Walled Lake, MI 48390||8|
|Legends Poker Place of Metamora||3546 South Lapeer Rd., Metamora, MI 48455||7|
|Lincoln Country Club||3485 Lake Michigan Dr. North West, Grand Rapids, MI 49534||n/a|
|Live Action Poker Room at Boomers||16006 Southfield Rd., Allen Park, MI 48101||4|
|Malarkey's Poker Room||35750 Warren Rd., Westland, MI 48185||10|
|MGM Grand Detroit Casino||1777 Third St., Detroit, MI 48226||21|
|Momo's Poker Room||5841 Telegraph Rd., Taylor, MI 48180||14|
|MotorCity Casino||2901 Grand River Ave., Detroit, MI 48201||17|
|Northway Lanes & Billiards||1751 Evanston Ave., Muskegon, MI 49442||n/a|
|Odawa Casino||1760 Lears Rd., Petoskey, MI 49770||6|
|Ojibwa Casino Baraga||16449 Michigan Ave., Baraga, MI 49908||1|
|Ojibwa Casino Marquette||105 Acre Trail, Marquette, MI 49855||3|
|One Eyed Jacks Poker Lounge||48762 Van Dyke Ave., Utica, MI 48317||8|
|Owosso Poker Room||1405 East Main 21, Owosso, MI 48867||10|
|Players Golf and Poker Room North||33463 8 Mile Rd., Livonia, MI 48152||5|
|Players Golf and Poker Room South||36115 Plymouth Rd., Livonia, MI 48150||9|
|Port Huron Masonic Center||927 6th St., Port Huron, MI 48060||n/a|
|Prime Time Poker||1535 Old US Hwy. 23, Hartland, MI 48353||8|
|Prime Time Poker at 59 West||786 Highland Rd., Highland, MI 48357||8|
|Rosemack Poker Room||20791 East 13 Mile Rd., Roseville, MI 48066||9|
|Rounders Poker Room Saginaw||3325 Davenport Ave., Saginaw, MI 48602||7|
|Roundtree Poker Room||2203 Ellsworth Rd., Ypsilanti, MI 48197||5|
|Russo's Pizzeria Bar & Grill||6211 South Division St., Grand Rapids, MI 49548||n/a|
|St. Hyacinth School Hall||5240 McDougall St., Detroit, MI 48211||n/a|
|St. Mary Parish Life Center||807 St. Marys Boulevard, Charlotte, MI 48813||n/a|
|Shark Club Waterford||6665 Highland Rd., Waterford, MI 48327||3|
|Soaring Eagle Casino||6800 Soaring Eagle Blvd., Mt. Pleasant, MI 48858||14|
|The Event Spot Poker Room||5601 West Saginaw Hwy. Suite B, Lansing, MI 48917||6|
|The Event Spot II Poker Room||856 Elmwood Rd., Lansing, MI 48917||2|
|Thompson Poker Room||100 Ecorse Rd., Ypsilanti, MI 48198||3|
|VFW 1008 Card Room||1690 Airport Rd., Waterford, MI 48327||n/a|
|Waterford Card Room at 300 Bowl||101 South Cass Lake Rd., Waterford, MI 48328||8|
|Wayne Bowl Charity Poker||36900 Michigan Ave., Wayne, MI 48184||8|
|Westgate Bowl||4486 Alpine Ave. NW, Comstock Park, MI 49321||n/a|
|Winning Hand Poker||20000 Van Horn Rd., Woodhaven, MI 48183||12|
|Wintergarden Poker Room||46777 Gratiot Ave., Chesterfield, MI 48051||5|
When it comes to legal gambling in Michigan, the state first legalized pari-mutuel horse racing in 1933 and the state lottery in 1972 — in both cases relatively early compared to other states.
It wasn’t until the 1990s, however, that Michigan introduced other forms of legal gambling, including poker.
In 1993, came the first Native American casino after the state signed a compact with the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, with several other compacts with different Michigan-based tribes and the opening of more tribal casinos following.
In 1996, voters in the state passed by a narrow margin a proposal to allow three commercial casinos to be built in Detroit, and the Michigan Gaming Control and Revenue Act became law in 1997.
The MGM Grand Detroit was the first to open in July 1999, followed by MotorCity Casino Hotel in December 1999 and Greektown Casino-Hotel in November 2000.
As noted above, poker is among the gambling games allowed in Michigan casinos, with the game also permitted in other licensed brick-and-mortar locations as well as in nonprofit home games.
In 1999, Michigan adopted SB 562, specifically outlawing using the internet to violate provisions of the state’s anti-gambling laws.
However, the following year, the state passed Public Act 185, thereby repealing SB 562. That meant from the year 2000 forward, Michigan didn’t have a specific prohibition on the books outlawing online gambling, leaving the state in a kind of a legal gray area on the matter.
By the 2010s, lawmakers in the state took up the idea of explicitly passing online gambling legislation. After about three years’ worth of effort, a bill called the Lawful Internet Gaming Act was introduced in the state’s Senate as SB 889.
The Senate Regulatory Reform Committee voted in favor of the bill in June 2016, but it stalled after that and was not brought up for a vote by the entire Senate.
Efforts continued, and in September 2017, a new bill was introduced, H 4926, also called the Lawful Internet Gaming Act.
After sitting dormant for several months, that bill was reintroduced during the 2018 session and was passed by the House. The Senate then amended the bill and passed it in December 2018, and after the House passed that version as well, it was sent to Gov. Rick Snyder for his signature.
The bill allowed both commercial and tribal casino operators to obtain online gambling licenses. It also included language permitting Michigan to enter a multi-state online poker agreement with other states with legal, regulated online poker to share player pools.
Alas for the bill’s proponents, Snyder chose to veto the bill along with about 40 others, his final actions before leaving office. It was back to the drawing board for Michigan legislators.
Incoming Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had already signaled her support of legalizing sports betting during her campaign.
As 2019 progressed, it became clear that she was also favorable to expanding other forms of online gambling in the state, including online poker.
As the year came to a close, a package of bills legalizing online casinos, sports betting and online poker were ultimately passed by both legislative chambers. It was under the collective title of the Lawful Internet Gaming Act or H 4311. Whitmer signed the bills into law on Dec. 20, 2019.
There was one important change made to H 4311, namely, the removal of the clause explicitly allowing Michigan to enter a multi-state compact with other states to share player pools.
Such a compact was not forbidden, either. However, it is unclear whether or not the lack of a specific provision might present difficulties down the road should Michigan online poker sites wish to form such alliances.
As noted above, it will certainly not be until 2021 at the earliest that any real money online poker sites will launch in Michigan. We have yet to see what effects the coronavirus pandemic will have on the progress of the state’s regulators to implement the new legislation.
While getting sports betting up and running had been an early priority after the new law was passed, perhaps there will be more focus toward online casinos and online poker — sooner rather than later.
With a population of just over 10 million, Michigan is the second-most populous state, thus far, to have legalized online poker (behind Pennsylvania).
Even so, when the first online poker sites do launch in the state, the ability of those sites to join multi-state compacts with others will be a crucial factor affecting the success of Michigan online poker.