If you were to rank the 50 states and the District of Columbia in order of which states have the largest poker action, where would you rank Michigan? Would you rank them above Hawaii or Iowa? How about above the District of Columbia? For the record, I would informally rank the top 5 as California, Nevada, New Jersey, Florida and Massachusetts, mostly based on population. However, I would definitely rank Michigan above Iowa, Hawaii and DC in terms of poker action. So why is it that intrastate online poker legislation has already been discussed in the legislatures of those states/districts and not in Michigan? I would venture to guess that the brick and mortar casinos, Michigan’s traditional role as a manufacturing state, and the questionable image of poker have a lot to do with it.
The casino lobby in Michigan is strong and active. Even if they have not publicly voiced their opinions about online intrastate poker, you know that legislators even considering raising the flag are weary of the opposition they might receive from that lobby. Everyone knows the stories about the casinos opening in Detroit and the legal and political battles that had to be fought to settle those disputes. Legislators just don’t have the appetite for such a conflict with so many other problems besieging the state.
Granted when you think of Michigan, you don’t immediately think of the Motor City Casino, or Greektown Casino, or MGM Detroit. Or the dozens of charity poker rooms dotted all over the state (30 in the Detroit metro area alone). No, Michigan is known for the Big Three, and it is known as auto manufacturing state. That’s what drives the state economy and that’s what feeds the majority of the state. Sure the administration has tried diversifying into green industries and the movie/TV production industries, but the perception is still that we are a manufacturing state first.
So even though Michigan is steeped in card playing tradition (know anyone from Michigan that doesn’t know how to play Euchre?), the image of poker as a seedy, immoral game seems to persist. People who play poker know that most games are self-policed and poker rooms enforce fair rules of play and discourage angle-shooting and unethical behavior between players. In the end, no player wants to play in a crooked game, but unlike other games, individual players often band together to ensure a clean and fair game for everyone. With the proper legislation, the same thing would be true for online poker rooms.
Eventually someone is going to have to ask, why is the state forgoing the tax income that could be created by legalizing intrastate online poker in Michigan? Of all the other states that have large poker action, Michigan is particularly vulnerable to having potential tax revenues flee to nearby Canada, where poker players can play against the rest of the world. Michigan has already done a good job creating the live poker scene that everyone enjoys. Allowing players to play for lower stakes online would just help maintain that part of the state’s economy and feed new players into those live poker rooms. Not to mention that having those online games will help fill the government coffers at a time when any revenue can be put to good use.