Straddling both the Great Lakes and the Midwest regions of the United States, Michigan is unique both in terms of its geographic location as well as its history. Surrounded extensively by bodies of water including Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, the state has the worldwide distinction of having the most extensive freshwater coastline of any other similar geographical entity.
Michigan, by area, is the 11th largest state in the United States – and it is slightly larger than the UK in that regard as well. A population of around 10 million residents places it 10th among the other United States. Lansing is the state capital, however, Detroit is its largest city and most economically important metropolitan area.
Michigan’s admission into the Union in 1837 brought with it a new wave of economic development and prosperity. Because of its convenient situation at the heart of the United States, proximity to Canada, and abundance of skilled manpower and ground minerals, the automotive industry began to thrive in the area. Legendary names like Horace Dodge, Henry Ford, David Buick, and Charles King all established factories in the state for their respective car manufacturing companies.
By the early 20th century, Detroit was already the fourth-largest city in the US, with immigrants as well as settlers from other parts of the country moving there for greener pastures. At this point, it rivaled the likes of New York and California in terms of national importance. So heavy was the immigration drive that, by the 1920s, residential housing in the state couldn’t keep up with the rising population. Any discourse on the state of gambling in Michigan is tied to the economic ups and downs it and the auto industry has faced over the years.
Early History of Gambling and Poker in Michigan
As with many of its peers, Michigan began its foray into the world of legal, regulated gambling by authorizing pari-mutuel horse racing – which it did in 1933. This activity was codified in that year’s Racing Act and was regulated by the then newly-appointed Racing Commissioner.
With a 40-year slump in any form of action regarding the further expansion of the scope of gambling in the state, Michigan voters, in 1972, approved the authorization of the state’s own lottery. Then Governor William Miliken signed the act into law and created another office, that of Lottery Commissioner. The proceeds from the lottery were to go towards public school funding.
One small moment in the state’s history, in 1984, would open the floodgates for the push towards legalizing casino-style table games. That year, a Keweenaw Tribe member named Fred Dakota challenged the existing laws in Michigan regarding tribal gaming. He argued that based on existing federal laws, regulated tribal gambling establishments should, in fact, be legal in the state. He then proceeded to open a single blackjack table establishment in his small garage.
With that impetus, in the 1990s, the Saginaw Chippewa tribe opened the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort. This was after the tribe had signed a compact allowing their proposed casino to operate. With that, table games like poker finally came to Michigan – and have remained in the state ever since.
Following the acquisition of these compacts by other Native tribes, state voters, in 1996, approved the construction and operation of three licensed casinos in Detroit. This act was signed in 1997 and with it, brought the opening of the MGM Grand Detroit and MotorCity Casino Hotel.
Poker and Gambling in Michigan in the 21st Century
As you’ll find later on, most of the groundwork towards legalizing gambling and expanding its scope in Michigan was done in the years before 2000. With the turn of the millennium, the state has only had to make a few new laws to further place it at the cutting edge of American gaming.
In 2014, Michigan officially launched its iLottery scheme, allowing players to purchase lottery tickets online from their computers or mobile devices. Later additions to the scheme included draw games like Powerball, Lotto 47, and Mega Millions.
After five years spent on legislative backs-and-forth, the state’s legislature, in 2019, approved a set of bills that, among other things, legalized online betting, daily fantasy sports and most importantly, online poker.
Casinos and other gambling establishments were invited to apply for the licenses that would legally permit them to offer these games – and many did. MGM Grand, Greektown Casino, Firekeepers Casino, and Four Winds Casino, among others, have since begun to offer online gambling options to players. Importantly, only the three Detroit commercial casinos and the other 23 tribal casinos in the state are allowed to run online gambling platforms for games like poker and blackjack (among others).
If you don’t like the feel of the aforementioned casinos’ official websites, you can access independent off-shore online poker services and enjoy the games as you would anywhere else – with no interference from law enforcement. With ample new-user bonuses, frequently-updated promotions, and well-built web and mobile interfaces, here are 8 great options to try:
- Ignition Poker
- Juicy Stakes Poker
- Americas Cardroom
- BlackChip Poker
- True Poker
- SportsBetting Poker
- Drake’s Casino
in 2019, at around the same time online gained legal authorization, sports betting was also going through the legislative process. Finally, in December of that year, the Lawful Sports Betting Act was signed into law. The casinos in the state were also invited to apply for the resulting licenses.
Despite the fact that only the 26 licensed tribal and commercial casinos in the state are allowed to apply for sports betting licenses, the law permits these casinos to hire third-party operators, such as websites like DraftKings Sportsbook and FanDuel Sportsbook, to run the day-to-day sports betting operations.
Michigan is one of the most receptive states in the US when it comes to legal betting, gambling, and sports betting activities. Residents in the state don’t have to travel far to get in on the poker action. Detroit, itself, has a good selection of casinos waiting to serve bettors over the age of 21.