Michigan Legal Poker

Last Update: March 20, 2015

Online Poker

You won’t find anything in the Michigan Gaming Control and Revenue Act authorizing or prohibiting online gaming. Nor will you find any statute in the Michigan criminal code criminalizing the play of online poker or the offering of online poker to Michigan residents.

The state clearly has taken an interest in regulating as much of gambling as it can. This would seem to argue against online poker being legal in the state. But all of the state’s “live” gambling criminal statutes are targeted at operators, rather than at players. So presumably there is nothing with which Michigan law enforcement authorities could charge players for playing online poker from their homes.

Online poker operators have a thornier time arguing the legal validity of offering the games to Michigan residents. They’re forced to rely on the justification that they’re beyond the jurisdiction of Michigan law as long as the computer servers on which the games are hosted are outside of Michigan.

Live Poker

Almost every from of live poker is fully regulated, licensed and legal in the state of Michigan.
In 1996 the state passed the Michigan Gaming Control and Revenue Act, which authorized the creation of the Michigan Gaming Control Board and the creation of three casinos in Detroit. Those casinos are allowed to offer the full panoply of “gambling games” in compliance with the Gaming Control and Revenue Act, including poker. In order for poker to be legal in Michigan, it has to be offered in compliance with this statute.

The state also boasts roughly two dozen tribal gaming operations, from bingo halls to full-blown casinos. These offerings are governed by tribal-state compacts entered into with the state, some of which allow for the offering of live poker.

The state also has a grandfathered system of charity poker licenses that are transferable between bars, pubs and restaurants. 2009 WSOP Main Event winner Joe Cada purchased such a license in 2011 to open Cada’s Poker & Sports Grill in Sterling Heights, Michigan. These types of licenses are more restrictive in terms of the types of poker games that operators are allowed to offer.

Home games are excepted from the definition of “gambling game” found in the Gaming Control and Revenue Act as long as the games are played in a private residence and no one makes money for operating the game. Since they’re not “gambling games”, they can be offered without running afoul of any Michigan anti-gambling criminal statutes (which all seem to target for-profit operators anyway).

Legal Poker By State