PokerStars has announced that it will be combining the player pools of its licensed Michigan and New Jersey online cardrooms. This will mark the first entry of a Michigan internet poker provider to the shared liquidity pool that’s already active between Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey. The scheduled date for this shared online poker sites traffic setup to launch is Jan. 1, 2023
Going into the year 2022, there were three signatories to the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA). First started by Nevada and Delaware in 2014 and then joined by New Jersey in 2017, this interstate compact enables licensed online poker sites in participating states to pool their traffic across state lines in order to achieve higher player counts and bigger games.
Though the prospect of shared liquidity raised hopes of a second poker boom in the United States, the impact of the MSIGA was minimal. As it happens, there was only one operator that did business in more than one of the signatory states: WSOP.com. This site did see its traffic numbers increase with the combined player pools, but all other state-regulated online poker rooms were unaffected.
In April 2022, Michigan was accepted as the fourth member of the compact. Any hopes that its online poker rooms would soon join with others across the land were dashed as month after month passed with no news.
PokerStars Prepared to Break New Ground
Following scheduled downtime on Dec. 12 and 13 at the PokerStars MI and NJ poker sites (notably, the Pennsylvania PokerStars room did not have such maintenance downtime), PokerStarsUSA issued a tweet stating:
NJ & MI are back up and running! Watch this space for updates, as we work to bring New Jersey and Michigan poker players together in the near future.
Although a bit vague, this tweet did nod at the prospect of combined NJ and MI poker liquidity. In the following weeks, users started noticing “internal stars testing” tournaments at PokerStars in both states, likely a type of preparation for tournaments involving participants in multiple jurisdictions.
On Friday, Dec. 23, PokerStars ended the suspense by confirming via a press release that it was indeed combining its Michigan and New Jersey player pools. In celebration, the combined player pool will have access to a special $100,000 guaranteed tournament with a buyin of $100 on Jan. 1 at 6:00 p.m. ET, and then a $50,000 guaranteed MTT with a buyin of just $10 will begin at 6:30 p.m.
PokerStars US Managing Director, Severin Rasset, had the following to say:
Michigan and New Jersey joining forces is great news for our players in these two states, and poker, more generally, as it promises a better experience and even more value, all with the confidence provided by a trusted, licensed operator…Our community will experience more breadth and depth of games, more tournaments with bigger prizes to win, amped-up promotions, and more choice.
According to figures from industry traffic-tracking site GameIntel, PokerStars MI has an average of 180 simultaneously active cash game players while the New Jersey division of PS hosts 90 ring game players on average. If these player counts are combined into a single pool, it would be enough to make PokerStars the largest state-regulated online poker site in both markets by a decent margin.
Competitor Close on PokerStars’ Heels?
Although nothing definitive has been announced yet, it looks like competitor BetMGM may be following in PokerStars footsteps. In November, BetMGM upgraded its New Jersey platform to bring it up to speed with its Michigan software, which was several generations newer. Then in early December, BetMGM added its SPINS lottery SNG product to New Jersey, bringing it inline with the rest of BetMGM’s regulated poker offerings in other states.
PokerStars’ other Michigan competitor WSOP.com, by contrast, doesn’t appear to be making any strides toward combining its MI player pool with those in other parts of the country. This is rather unusual given that WSOP.com is the only operator with any actual experience running a multi-state internet poker site.
More States to Join Compact in Future?
There are a few other states that have passed online poker legalization but have not yet joined the MSIGA: Pennsylvania, West Virginiaand Connecticut. West Virginia and Connecticut have not yet seen any regulated internet poker sites appear. However, Pennsylvania is a more interesting case.
The same trio of sites is active in Pennsylvania as in Michigan: PokerStars, BetMGM, and WSOP.com. With its population of 13 million, Pennsylvania is larger than any other state that has joined the traffic-sharing compact. Michigan has only 10 million people while New Jersey’s population is around 9.3 million. Delaware and Nevada are tiny by comparison.
Thus, the Keystone State could make a big difference in the effectiveness of the MSIGA. Following Michigan’s accession to the interstate compact, PA governor Tom Wolf was reportedly pondering the advantages of Pennsylvania joining the agreement. Nothing concrete has been heard from the governor’s office since though.
No Need to Wait for ‘Stars
Despite the importance of this news for online poker players in Michigan and New Jersey, it does not seriously matter to anyone else in any other state. Fortunately, they (and you) already have several upstanding online poker sites to choose from. These are located offshore where they don’t have to comply with the demands of state regulators in order to accept users from around the world, including the United States.
To learn more about these organizations and how you can sign up for accounts with them, check out this guide to online poker in the USA. It’s fully legal for you to play at these sites as you will learn if you peruse this page about the legality of online poker in America.