Michigan gambling laws are rather odd. The actual crime of gambling doesn’t even pertain to gambling itself, it isn’t a crime at all to gamble per se, only to win at it. The law states:
“Winning at gambling – Any person who by playing at cards, dice, or any other game, or by betting or putting up money on cards, or by any other means or device in the nature of betting on cards, or betting of any kind, wins or obtains any sum of money or any goods, or any article of value whatever, is guilty of a misdemeanor if the money, goods, or articles so won or obtained are of the value of not more than $50.00. If the money, goods, or articles so won or obtained are of the value of more than $50.00, the person is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine of not more than $1,000.00.” (1)
It is also an offense to “attend or frequent a place where gambling or gaming is suffered or permitted.” (2) You don’t even have to be gambling to be prosecuted for this, you just have to be on the premises.
The law governing frequenting a place where gambling is permitted, or “suffered,” which I guess means something like tolerated, is about as broad as you can get. This would clearly apply to any public place where gambling is going on, and could have been interpreted to include private places as well, although this later became clarified by The Michigan Gaming Control and Revenue Act, which provides the following definition:
“Gambling game means any game played with cards, dice, equipment, or a machine…but does not include games played with cards in private homes or residences in which no person makes money for operating the game, except as a player.” (3)
So this makes it pretty clear that gambling, or poker playing, is permitted as long as it is done in a purely private setting, without anyone making money off of the game for running it.
How Might This Apply To Internet Poker?
Online poker is different from public gaming houses, card rooms, or casinos, which must be specifically authorized by the state to operate legally, and purely private games, which do not require authorization.
So is playing online poker in a private setting considered a private game? Well with online poker, there is someone who makes money off of the games, and that would be the poker site. The exclusion for private games does specify that this applies if no one makes money for operating the game, a condition which is not the case with online poker.
So if the state wanted to prosecute people for playing online, they could argue that the provision for private games does not apply. It is hard to imagine a court not agreeing with this. The kicker here though is that they would have to also establish that the player being charged profited from the game, and given that this information is private and not public, they would need a court order to access it.
So they aren’t about to get access to your account information held in a foreign country, and while they in theory could get court approval to access your banking records, this alone would probably not be sufficient to prove you made a profit, as it generally would only show withdrawals and not deposits.
So this not only is extremely far fetched it may not even be possible. So in spite of the law seeming to prohibit online poker for money being played in Michigan, this is one state where not only is the law not being enforced, it’s pretty much impossible to imagine how it could be, when the necessity or proving winnings get added to the already difficult process of even gathering evidence of playing for money in the first place goes, which is the case with online gambling in general in any state.
Live Poker In Michigan
So home games are explicitly legal in Michigan, and they also have quite a wide collection of different poker rooms where you can play live poker legally in a public setting as well.
This not only includes a number of tribal casinos and poker rooms, but some non-tribal ones as well, and Michigan now has a licensing procedure where anyone can get approved for a casino license provided that they meet the conditions.
This all was initially a result of a casino opening up across the river from Detroit, in Canada, where most of the traffic ended up coming from Michigan residents, and state officials saw this as a missed opportunity and quickly came up with a plan to cash in on all of this, and before too long we had the statute in place that permitted this.
The Native Americans there had been operating casinos starting around this time as well, and continue to do so. At present there are a total of over 30 places where you can play live poker in Michigan, which is one of the most extensive collections of live poker rooms in the country. (4)
Online Poker In Michigan
Online poker players in Michigan are free to play at any of the online poker sites that accept players from the United States, as none deny access to Michigan residents. So it is then simply a matter of choosing the best poker sites that you can play at, and here’s our recommendations to you if you are from Michigan:
Ignition Poker is a real favorite for poker players from Michigan (<< review here) as well as from people from all around the country. They offer a great variety of promotions and casino games on the side, including a massive welcome bonus of 100% up to $1,000.
America’s Cardroom is another fine choice for people from Michigan, and they also offer a nice welcome bonus, which is up to $1,000, just to tempt you to try them out. Try out both of these places if you like and get paid to try out each.
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