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British betting giant William Hill announced its intentions to enter the Michigan casino and sports betting market on Monday. Its partner in the state will be the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians (GTB).
Under the terms of the deal, the British betting giant will operate the retail sportsbook at GTB’s Turtle Creek Casino near Traverse City.
Mobile betting will follow, along with an online casino, which figures to be the first in the US for William Hill.
The Stars Group and PointsBet both announced their Michigan partnerships in the first week of January. Scientific Games joined them later in the month. All of these confirmed partnerships involve the state’s tribes, while the three commercial casinos in Detroit haven’t yet revealed their plans.
William Hill is one of the world’s largest gambling operators, with 16,000 employees worldwide and global annual revenues of more than $2 billion. It also became the largest retail sports betting operator in the US in 2012 after merging three Nevada-based businesses. It now has over 70 full-service sportsbooks across the state, plus over 100 kiosk locations.
GTB is one of 12 federally recognized tribes in Michigan. Turtle Creek is the larger of the two casinos it owns in the northern part of the lower peninsula. With 56,000 square feet of gaming space and 1,200 slot machines, it is significantly smaller than the state’s largest casinos.
The new William Hill sportsbook will be located inside Onyx, the property’s on-site sports bar. It will also have a satellite location at the tribe’s second casino, Leelanau Sands, located about 25 miles away.
William Hill and GTB both say they expect to launch sometime over the summer in order to be ready for the start of the NFL season in August.
In a press release, William Hill US CEO Joe Asher described Michigan as “a key state in William Hill’s US expansion due to its large population and deep-rooted sports culture.”
Although sports betting is the focus of this partnership — and William Hill’s entire operation — the deal also includes provisions for an online casino.
Online gambling in Michigan is, however, expected to take longer to get off the ground than retail sports betting. Neither online casinos nor mobile sports betting will likely be available before early next year.
William Hill currently operates online sportsbooks in three states: Nevada, New Jersey and Iowa. It also manages risk for the Rhode Island Lottery and plans to launch in Indiana and Pennsylvania in the near future.
West Virginia and Illinois also remain possibilities once online betting goes live there.
That said, William Hill does not yet have an online casino product anywhere in the US. It is so far unknown which platform it plans to use to supply online casino/poker to GTB in Michigan.
Although Michigan partnership announcements have been coming fast and furious this year, some big question marks remain.
Most notably, twin sports gambling giants DraftKings and FanDuel haven’t tipped their hands.
FanDuel will end up under the same roof as Fox Bet later this year once The Stars Group’s merger with Flutter is completed. However, the FanDuel brand is important enough in the US that it would be surprising not to see a FanDuel Sportsbook in the Michigan market as well.
Unibet and Caesars are two other names we haven’t heard from yet.
Any of these could be potential partners for the independently owned MotorCity Casino or any of the state’s remaining tribes.
As far as tribal casinos go, it’s somewhat surprising that Four Winds hasn’t yet announced an alliance. Along with Soaring Eagle, it is one of the largest tribal partnerships up for grabs. They may elect to go the self-branded route, like FireKeepers online casino.
Though Soaring Eagle remains a mystery, the reason for Four Winds’ silence may lie outside of the state. It is owned by the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians (PBPI), Michigan’s only multi-state tribe.
PBPI also has a Four Winds property in Indiana and is currently negotiating with the state to offer sports betting there. It and its potential partners are presumably waiting to see how that pans out before finalizing any agreements.
Photo: Turtle Creek Casino