Michigan started the process of examining the implications of legalizing the online poker industry in the state with the State Senate’s Regulatory Reform Committee holding its first hearing on the matter. The informational hearing discussed the ‘Lawful Internet Gaming Act (SB 889)’ an online poker bill that was introduced in April, with a number of stakeholders discussing key aspects of online gaming. In 2014 Michigan passed a Charity Poker Bill which allowed charity poker rooms to host poker games.
The sponsor of the bill Sen. Mike Kowall said that the online poker industry could create almost 22,000 jobs and provide additional tax revenue to the state.
John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance discussed how the regulation of the online poker industry would ensure that players in the state are protected from illegal gambling websites.
Amaya Inc, owner of the world’s largest poker site PokerStars also testified before the committee with three representatives speaking on various aspects. One of them discussed the issue of problem gambling and detailed the different ways through which online operators are able to address the issue.
Steven Winter, Amaya Inc, director of operations spoke at length on the robust technologies and security features that online poker companies use which would ensure that only players within the borders of the state would be able to access these online poker sites. Winter assured the committee members that the process had become an exact science. He also spoke on the issue of poker bots, saying that the site operators had the onus of ensuring that the games hosted on the sites were clear of bots.
Matthew Robbins, director of compliance for Amaya, also addressed the committee discussing the financial issues related to online gaming. He said that money laundering was difficult via online sites since they don’t accept cash like brick-and- mortar casinos do. He said that having authorised payment methods would help in mitigating the issue to a large extent.
A representative from the governor’s office said that there was no clarity as yet on whether online gaming would help or harm the state’s traditional casino industry which is currently going through a tough period.
Industry expert Michael Pollack of Spectrum Gaming Group spoke on the opportunities arising from online gaming, saying that it had the potential to attract new consumer segments to the industry in addition to providing a platform for advertising. He also pointed out that the bill currently allows only eight licences. Sen. Kowall later indicated that the number of licences was subject to revision.