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Wynn was a late arrival to New Jersey, but will attempt to hit the ground running in Michigan.
White-label platform provider GAN announced on Monday that the two companies had reached agreement on a 10-year deal for joint operations. Like other online gambling states, Michigan requires operators to partner with a land-based casino in the state. Fortunately, GAN has had such a partnership lined up since April.
The two will launch in partnership with Kewadin Casinos, the tribal gaming company owned by the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. The company operates five small to medium casinos in Michigan’s upper peninsula. The flagship property in Sault Ste. Marie is ideally located to receive visits from Canadian gamblers once the pandemic-related border closure has been lifted.
Wynn launched its app quietly in New Jersey in August. Wynn Sports puts its sportsbook product front and center, though it has integrated casino games as well.
Both the sportsbook and WynnBET Online Casino should likewise be available from day one in Michigan, but it’s unlikely that there will be a poker product. GAN has the technology to launch one and may do so with Parx Casino in Pennsylvania eventually. However, it doesn’t seem to be a priority for either Wynn or Kewadin.
GAN will supply both the platform and casino content for Wynn. The sportsbook product will come from Wynn’s strategic partner Betbull Limited and an as-yet-unnamed third-party content provider.
GAN formulated its plan for Michigan well in advance. When it forged its deal with Kewadin, it was already signaling its intent to be quick out of the gate. It also seems to have had Wynn lined up from the start. However, that deal may not have been finalized yet, or Wynn may have wanted to keep its involvement secret at the time.
“Michigan has long represented an attractive market, with both internet sports and internet casino gaming now regulated,” said GAN’s Chief Commercial Officer Jeff Berman in April. “Our technical expertise and ‘day one’ experience in multiple US internet gambling markets will enable the Sault Tribe to capture their share of the online opportunity, and we thank them for their trust in forming this relationship with GAN and our major US casino operator client, whose identity will be confirmed in due course.”
It remains to be seen if GAN can make good on the promise of a swift launch. There are at least 14 online casino operators planning to launch before the year is out, so the Michigan Gaming Control Board’s (MGCB) licensing team has its work cut out for it.
Wynn, for its part, has been weirdly silent on the subject of its plans in the online space. The New Jersey launch came out of the blue and was not accompanied by an official announcement. Likewise, it has allowed GAN to do all the talking for it at this juncture.
Even now, Wynn hasn’t done much to market its app in New Jersey. It may be the company’s belief that it arrived too late to the now-saturated New Jersey market to make a dent. Its launch there may have been largely a live test of the software as preparation to make a bigger splash in Michigan.
GAN says it expects to be able to launch in November. That matches the most recent estimates given by the MGCB. Specifically, Thanksgiving has been floated as an approximate launch date on two separate occasions.
When Michigan lawmakers passed the Lawful Internet Gaming Act (LIGA) last December, the assumption was that the regulatory and licensing processes would take a bit over a year. The original target for launch was therefore early 2021.
COVID-19 has made it a higher priority to have an online option for gamblers. For that reason, the MGCB has been keeping the pedal to the metal over the last few months. November represents a slight delay over the best-case estimate of October given over the summer. Fortunately, it hasn’t been pushed back any further from there.
The latest developments, which came last week, were some minor revisions to the draft rules, which got their public hearing on Sept. 22. The most significant of these was an adjustment to the rules about the use of official league data for in-play sports betting.
Sportsbooks will no longer have to be using official data at launch, but leagues can oblige them to switch on request. That change may help expedite launch. It averts the possibility of a delay if the leagues aren’t ready when the regulator and the operators are.