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DraftKings this week revealed its plans to offer retail and online sports betting in Michigan under a new partnership with Bay Mills Resort & Casino.
The announcement makes DraftKings the eighth operator to secure a path into the Michigan online sports betting market.
The first retail sportsbooks in the state opened on March 12 before shutting down almost immediately due to COVID-19. Online betting hasn’t yet launched but may arrive before the year is out on an expedited timeline.
Bay Mills isn’t a tiny property, but it’s not a particularly big one either. The tribal casino is one of two owned by the Bay Mills Indian Community, the other being Kings Club just a few minutes’ drive away.
In addition to launching its digital platform under its license, DraftKings will open a new retail sportsbook at the larger Bay Mills.
DraftKings is already a primary player in the budding US online gambling industry. Its value has soared since its recent initial listing on the NASDAQ exchange, with a market capitalization now exceeding $6 billion.
The company serves daily fantasy sports players in most states, sports bettors in 11, and online casino gamblers in Pennsylvania and New Jersey so far.
Such partnerships between major online brands and small, independent casinos have become the norm.
Except where national alliances exist, the largest casino companies tend to favor their own branding in the online realm. As a result, they tend to partner with B2B operators, such as the deal struck by Scientific Games to offer a platform and mobile games for FireKeepers Casino.
These arrangements can be a win-win for all parties involved.
The partnership should prove hugely lucrative for the Bay Mills Indian Community, while DraftKings gets to inject its brand into one of the larger gambling markets in the US.
“Expanding on what entertainment options we can offer at Michigan’s longest operating gaming facility is always our goal, said Tribal Chairman Bryan Newland. “Our new on-site DraftKings Sportsbook will be one more great reason for Michiganders to vacation with us in the Upper Peninsula.”
The DraftKings Sportsbook deal makes Bay Mills the fifth Michigan tribe to announce its sports betting partner. The first three did so in rapid succession at the beginning of the year while the ink was still wet on the gambling law.
Known partnerships include:
Intended partnerships for all three Detroit casinos are additionally set in stone:
There remain several significant players that have yet to declare their intentions in Michigan, including the likes of 888, Caesars, and Unibet.
Michigan’s casinos shut down along with the rest of the country’s in mid-March in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The state hasn’t yet made up its mind as to when the commercial casinos in Detroit can reopen, though July 4 has been floated as a possibility.
The 20+ tribal casinos don’t need to wait, though, needing only a go-ahead from their own leaders.
A few did so independently in mid-May: Island, Northern Waters, and Odawa. Subsequent reopenings have been more coordinated, with 8 of 13 tribal casinos in the Lower Peninsula resuming operations last weekend.
Most of the nine other Upper Pensinsula casinos, including the two Bay Mills properties, are just a week away from a planned mass reopening of their own on June 12. The three remaining casinos in the LP plan on reopening on June 15.
Once that happens, all but two of the states tribal casinos will be back in business. Ojibwa Casinos in Baraga and Marquette haven’t yet announced their plans.
The shutdown of the land-based gambling industry has been as painful in Michigan as it has been elsewhere. The city of Detroit alone estimates that it is losing $600,000 in tax revenue every day that its three casinos remain closed.
The closures have ultimately resulted in a push to accelerate the launch of online gambling.
The buzzer-beater bill Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed into law last December legalized the full package of sports betting, online casinos, and online poker. The time required for the regulatory and licensing process, however, meant that the launch of online gambling products wasn’t expected until early 2021.
Now, the two-plus month shutdown of land-based gambling has led some to call for an expedited timeline. In other states with modernized gambling, like Pennsylvania and New Jersey, a surge in online revenue has partially offset the impact of casino closures.
The Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) began taking license applications for iGaming suppliers in mid-May, a significant step toward launch. The agency now says sites could go live before the end of the year, though an expedited launch could create some competitive concerns.
The DraftKings press release contains no mention of other forms of online gambling beyond sports.