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Late last week, the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) issued authorization for the state’s first game testing lab.
Gaming Laboratories International (GLI) was the company to receive approval. It should begin taking applications immediately. A second company, BMM Test Labs is seeking similar authorization and will probably receive it within a matter of weeks.
“We are honored that the Michigan Gaming Control Board has approved GLI to test and certify iGaming and mobile sports betting,” said GLI’s Director of Global Technical Compliance, Peter Wolff. “We have been helping regulators and suppliers navigate the future of iGaming and mobile sports betting for decades, and we are excited to put our worldwide experience to work for Michigan.”
GLI has been in the business of testing for the gambling industry since 1989. Its headquarters are in Lakewood, NJ, but it now has labs on six continents. It isn’t a complete newcomer to Michigan either, having performed certifications for the Gun Lake Tribal Gaming Commission, which regulates the eponymous casino in Wayland.
There are two regulatory processes happening in parallel in Michigan at the moment.
On one side of things, the MGCB is attempting to finalize the rules for online gambling and sports betting. The next step in that process will be a public hearing on the current draft of the rules. This will take place on Sept. 23.
Simultaneously, the board is working towards being able to start issuing licenses. Having granted approval to a testing lab brings it one big step closer to doing so.
Receiving certification from a lab like GLI or BMM will be a necessary but not sufficient condition for licensing. These labs will determine the suitability of the software for the purposes of legal online gambling. The MGCB itself will then determine the suitability of the companies, their finances and their employees. Companies that pass on all fronts will receive a license and be able to begin operations.
The processes are linked, because the exact specifications for certification will depend on the final rules. However, many aspects of certification can be considered a given. For instance, software must be free of significant bugs, the random number generator must be fair, and the geolocation technology must accurately determine whether or not a player is in the state. Testing for these things can begin even before the final rules are in place.
Michigan regulators are rushing to get online casinos, poker and sportsbooks off the ground before the year is out. Retail sportsbooks, which were legalized by the same omnibus gambling expansion bill as iGaming, began launching in early March. That proved to be unfortunate timing, as they were forced to shut down just days later due to COVID-19.
Online betting was originally expected to launch in early 2021. However, the usefulness of online options as a backup revenue stream during the pandemic has caused the state to try to accelerate that timeline. An early, optimistic projection was that the state might be able to give the first sites the green light by October. That no longer looks very likely.
It’s unclear at this point which half of the process will end up being the limiting factor. There haven’t been any significant roadblocks on the rule-making side, but it has nonetheless fallen a bit behind the “best case” timeline.
On the licensing side, an unlikely dispute with the FBI over access to fingerprint records for background checks may cause delays. However, it’s a good sign that the testing process is now getting underway.
Though an October launch is probably off the table, there’s still hope for Michigan iGaming before the end of the year. Our colleagues at PlayMichigan are now predicting that the eventual go-live date will fall in the vicinity of Thanksgiving.