If you live in the state of Michigan and were hoping to have access to online poker this year, your patience is about to be tested a little longer — and you might not want to hold your breath waiting.
Although early reports suggested that online poker – as well as all forms of online gaming – could be coming to Michigan in November of this year, the Michigan Gaming Control Board has now shifted the target date to some time in 2021.
Michigan Aims For Super Bowl Launch
There was a lot of optimism in the air that we’d have online poker in Michigan by the end of the calendar year. For now, the new target date is the Super Bowl and onlookers are nervous that even that date could get pushed back. As of now, it’s not completely clear why things didn’t get started sooner, or if these current hurdles will be cleared within a few months.
Legalizing online poker is just part of the state’s green-lighting of all forms of online gambling, which includes sports betting. Governor Gretchen Whitmer put the finishing touches on the bill at the end of 2019, so there was some hope that – within a year of signing the bill – the wheels would be in motion. As 2020 winds down, the focus has shifted to 2021.
COVID-19, Regulators Have Slowed The Process
One of the biggest reasons why we’re not going to have legal online gaming in the state of Michigan this year is the COVID-19 or coronavirus pandemic. Of course, that forced many brick-and-mortar casinos to close.
While it would have been nice to have legalized gaming already operating, the state didn’t move fast enough from the end of 2019 to when the pandemic became a full-blown problem. Virtually the entire Michigan gambling industry was shutdown by the summer, and they’ve had a tough time reopening – especially with the state just entering what appears to be their second wave.
When the state saw just how much money they were going to lose as a result of the closures – roughly $650 million – the thinking was to expedite the launch of online gaming to get some of that money back.
However, it never quite came to fruition because the process has stalled with regulators. Administrative rules were sent over to the Joint Committee on October 6th but over a month later, they haven’t gotten word back on whether they approve or want to make changes. The problem is that the current legislative session has less than two weeks left. After that, the next session is in January.
The good news is that they’re already reviewing the rules — hopefully, if they can’t get them back in one of the final sessions in 2020, it will be one of the first things they take care of in 2021. If that’s the case, there could be legalized gaming right around the Super Bowl but that’s also assuming that no other hurdles crop up.
Given how the process has gone so far, expect some more unexpected twists before Michigan gets fully going with online gaming.