What does 2021 hold for regulated online poker in the U.S.?

Geoff Fisk
Published by:
Posted on 02/27/2021

U.S. online poker economy already far ahead of where it was one year ago

The final week of February began with two major tournament series running on U.S. regulated online poker sites.

Michigan players are currently embroiled in the first-ever Michigan Championship of Online Poker (MICOOP) at PokerStars MI. PokerStars MI became the first state-regulated online poker site to launch in Michigan, doing so on January 29.

PokerStars wasted no time allowing its Michigan player pool to jump right into the first major tournament series offered at PokerStars MI. The MICOOP kicked off Saturday, Feb. 20, and runs through March 8.

The partypoker US Network also rolled out a major series over the weekend, as the partypoker US Network Online PKO Series runs Feb. 21-28. The partypoker US Network operates as a New Jersey-only family of sites (for now), and this past weekend marked the beginning of one of the biggest weeks we’ve seen yet for the U.S. regulated poker industry.

Big tournament festivals running in multiple states at the same time might become the norm in the U.S. The stateside regulated online poker industry appears to be on an upward trajectory as 2021 unfolds.

Biggest year ever for U.S. online poker?

PokerStars MI functions as Michigan’s online regulated online poker site for now. The Michigan-only poker platform operates as part of an integrated online sports betting and casino platform under the FOX Bet/PokerStars banner.

A second online poker site, BetMGM poker, will soon join the Michigan ranks. The BetMGM Michigan online poker platform will run on partypoker software, as both BetMGM and partypoker’s U.S. operations fall under the banner of the same parent company, Roar Digital.

With BetMGM and partypoker in the same family, Michigan players could potentially look forward to a merged partypoker US Network that allows BetMGM Michigan and partypoker’s New Jersey network to share player pools.

The collection of New Jersey poker sites powered by partypoker software rebranded as the partypoker US Network in January 2020. For now, the network includes New Jersey-only sites partypoker NJ, BetMGM Poker NJ, and Borgata Poker.

New Jersey laws, however, allow online poker operators to enter into shared player liquidity agreements with other states if they wish. That measure, known as the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA), doesn’t apply to the partypoker US Network, with partypoker only operating in New Jersey for now.

The launch of BetMGM Poker in Michigan opens up the possibility of the partypoker US Network living up to its name as a truly “U.S.” collection of poker sites.

What would a merged Michigan/New Jersey poker network look like?

If Michigan (population ten million) and New Jersey (population nine million) entered into a shared online poker liquidity agreement, the joint Michigan/New Jersey network would represent the largest potential player pool in the regulated U.S. market.

Michigan passed a multijurisdictional poker bill in December, so the laws are in place for both New Jersey and Michigan to enter into an interstate poker agreement. Both PokerStars and partypoker could potentially merge their New Jersey and Michigan operations.

If both brands moved forward with a Michigan/New Jersey merger, the U.S. regulated poker market would then offer three separate multi-state networks.

The only multi-state online poker network in the U.S. consists of WSOP.com Nevada, WSOP.com New Jersey, and the 888poker Delaware. As of now, only New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware, and Michigan have laws in place to allow for shared player pools across state lines.

Pennsylvania, the only other U.S. state offering regulated online poker, would have to pass a multi-state poker bill in order to allow its poker sites to share player pools with other states.

PokerStars PA currently operates as the only regulated poker site in Pennsylvania, but both partypoker/BetMGM and 888poker/WSOP are set to enter the Keystone State in 2021.

Featured image source: Twitter