With the US Department of Justice (DOJ) declining to appeal the latest court ruling in relation to the Wire Act case, the future looks really bright for online gaming in the country. The online poker industry in particular will benefit from the latest developments, with the path now cleared for interstate compacts.
Gaming law experts have expressed a bullish sentiment on the future of iGaming in the US, now that online casino and online poker activities are legal in most cases. This will push regulated markets to move forward with plans to set up shared player pools by participating in interstate agreements. The state of West Virginia has already announced its intention to head in that direction, in a bid to attract its first online poker operators.
Despite the current positive outlook for online gaming in the US, Michigan and Pennsylvania have continued to take a cautious approach to interstate deals.
Both states have declined to issue any comment on the recent developments in the Wire Act case, with the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) and the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) also not reacting to the news that their West Virginia counterparts were exploring the possibility of participating in an interstate compact.
No Legal Clarity Yet?  
Last month, 26 Attorneys General, including AGs from Michigan and Pennsylvania wrote a letter to US Attorney General Merrick Garland, asking the DOJ to clarify its position on the Wire Act. This was after the agency decided not to pursue a Supreme Court appeal of a January Wire Act ruling from the First Circuit, declaring that the law only applies to sports betting.
In a six-page letter, the AGs were urging the agency to release a memorandum disavowing a Wire Act reversal issued by the Trump DOJ in 2019 which claimed that the Wire Act covers all forms of interstate gambling, not just sports betting. The AGs said that the states needed “finality” so they could take significant steps in relation to online gambling without fear of criminal prosecution.
This could be the main reason why Michigan and Pennsylvania are distancing themselves from discussions regarding interstate agreements, with both declining to comment when asked whether the lack of legal clarity is what’s hampering them from moving forward with plans to join such compacts.
Pennsylvania launched its regulated online gambling market in 2019, while Michigan did the same in January 2021. Despite being new to the iGaming world, both markets have enjoyed strong growth since opening their doors. The PA and MI online casino markets both generated $193.5 million in combined revenue in May, while their sports betting markets earned $51.7 million in the same month.
Their online poker markets have also shown great potential, despite making up just a small fraction of their entire online gambling revenue. In PA in particular, online poker revenue reached record levels during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Both states are currently home to three online poker sites: PokerStars, BetMGM and Borgata (both share the same player pool).
MI & PA Awaiting Finality on Wire Act Case
The status of online poker in the Wolverine and Keystone states and across the US in general will definitely change once they enter into interstate deals, but as it appears, both would have to wait for some clarity on the legal side of things before they could come up with a much clearer plan.
The PGCB said an interstate compact would need to gain approval from the governor first before anything else. After that, it would be the AG’s job to review and approve any interstate contract. Only then would the regulator be involved in facilitating with operators. The MGCB, for its part, said that while the state is interested in joining an interstate deal, such compacts must not go against state federal laws.
Both PA and MI refused to issue any further comments on whether there are other issues apart from the Wire Act that could be stopping them from joining or creating an interstate gaming deal.
 

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