Will PokerStars expand to an interstate U.S. online poker network?

Geoff Fisk
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Posted on: February 2, 2021 12:08 am EST

PokerStars Michigan goes live; could merge with New Jersey and Pennsylvania platforms

A massive online gambling expansion kicked off in Michigan on Jan. 22, with online sportsbooks and casinos launching in the Wolverine State. PokerStars Michigan became the first online poker site to see the light in Michigan, going live on Jan. 29.

PokerStars MI marks the third U.S. state in which the world’s largest online poker operator launched a regulated poker site. The new Michigan platform joins PokerStars New Jersey and PokerStars Pennsylvania among the U.S. poker sites offered by The Stars Group.

Michigan’s 10 million population and status as a live poker hub could lead to big success for the PokerStars MI platform. Michigan hosts 15 live poker rooms, but all are currently shut down amid the COVID-19 pandemic crisis.

With no set date for the return of live poker to Michigan, PokerStars MI could pick up massive player traffic in the first half of 2021. Licensed to tribal property Odawa Casino, PokerStars MI stands as the only state-regulated game in town at the moment.

PokerStars already announced that players can expect the first-ever Michigan Championship of Online Poker to arrive soon.

The future looks bright for online poker in Michigan. PokerStars MI is currently limited to in-state only competition, as players must be located within Michigan borders in order to play.

PokerStars true potential in the U.S. market, however, can only be realized if The Stars Group’s network of U.S. sites merge player pools, allowing players from different states to play against each other.

Interstate online poker bill could set the stage for shared player liquidity

Michigan joined a list of U.S. states offering regulated online poker that includes New Jersey, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Of those states, New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware operate under the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA), which allows regulated online poker sites in those states to share player pools.

The MSIGA allowed for the formation of an interstate poker network that includes WSOP.com Nevada, WSOP.com New Jersey, and the 888poker Delaware network. These 888/WSOP-operated sites currently operate as the only shared player pool network in the U.S.

Michigan lawmakers passed an interstate poker bill in December that gives the state’s regulated poker sites the green light to enter into the MSIGA, or potentially other multi-state poker agreements. This bill could lead to the formation of a PokerStars interstate network, which would be the first national shared player pool poker site outside of the WSOP/888 collaboration.

PokerStars MI could join PokerStars NJ immediately if Michigan joins the MSIGA. The merger of those two networks would double the size of the population that enjoys access to the PokerStars USA family of sites.

Pennsylvania, unlike Michigan, doesn’t have an interstate poker bill in place. That could change soon, however.

Pennsylvania gaming regulators were hesitant to pass such a bill when iGaming launched in the Keystone State in 2019. At that time, a Department of Justice ruling on the federal Wire Act from 2018 dictated that all gambling transactions that crossed state lines were illegal.

It appears that ruling won’t hold up, however. The First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the 2018 DOJ opinion invalid, and barring an appeal and a win in the Supreme Court, it appears that the Wire Act only applies to sports betting transactions.

Online poker is exempt from the Wire Act, however, and U.S. players hold reason for excitement with the 2018 DOJ ruling appearing to fizzle out.

Featured image source: Twitter