Michigan Online Poker Launch Pushed Back to Early 2021

The Michigan Gaming Control Board has confirmed that its coming launch of several forms of online gambling, including online poker and sports betting, won’t be ready for a real-money launch until some point in early 2021.

By: Haley Hintze

The news that the state wouldn’t quite hit its goal of going live before the end of 2020 came in an interview with MGCB executive director Richard Kalm. Speaking to one of the state’s largest online news portals, MLive, Kalm declared that the first launches were still about six weeks out, indicating a mid- to late-January debut for whichever sites receive official approval first.

Slow delays in that approval process are the key reason for the schedule’s adjustment, according to Kalm. Any site’s approval for launch actually includes a multiple of approvals of all the parts that go into constructing an online site, from hardware and software platforms to specialized services offered by third parties, such as geolocation providers.

As Kalm told MLive, "The whole thing is going to be really dependent on the paperwork they’re submitting. We’re going to give them provisional licenses as soon as we get all the paperwork and then finish our background investigations, and also the platforms that are required to submit their software and testing labs to make sure they comply with all of our requirements. So that’s gonna take a little bit of time to get that done."

Kalm also noted that online gambling in Michigan can’t launch until at least two online casino licensees -- one each from the tribal-gaming and commercial-casino categories -- receive final official approval. Michigan is currently home to 23 licensed tribal casinos, including several major properties, but only three Detroit-area commercial casinos exist. Those three are MGM Grand, MotorCity and Greektown.

When the state finally launches, it will become the fifth US state to offer some form of online poker, following New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware, and Pennsylvania.

Kalm also noted one other development that will speed up the approval process, or at least remove additional potential delays. Earlier in December, the Michigan Legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules waived its normal 15-session-day waiting period for the approval of final licensing by the state. That saves roughly three weeks of largely unneeded waiting time for any licensee awaiting that final approval to launch.

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