Michigan Gaming Control Board meets Jan 12 in final preparation for online gambling launch

Still No Official Launch Date For Michigan, But Regulatory Meeting Provides Some Answers

It’s hard to be patient. Although Michigan gamblers probably have at least a week more to wait for online gambling to arrive, they may at least get some answers tomorrow morning.

The Michigan Gaming Control Board’s (MGCB) first scheduled public meeting of 2021 will take place at 9:30 AM on Tuesday, January 12. Since the Board’s latest estimates were for a mid-January launch, this should be the moment to dispense with the last bits of red tape.

It will take place in virtual form. Interested members of the Michigan public can attend the meeting using Microsoft Teams, and participate in the public question and answer session at the end.

The MGCB ordinarily holds public meetings every two to three months. This year kicks off which two in rapid succession, with the next falling on February 9. If all goes well, the major topic at that one should be how things have gone in the first weeks of Michigan online casinos, mobile sportsbooks and possibly poker.

Update (01/12/2021): This article has been updated with a summary of the meeting. Click here to jump to the summary.

Delegation of authority

Indeed, two resolutions directly related to the launch are on tomorrow’s agenda. Each involves the delegation of certain authority to the MGCB’s Executive Director Richard Kalm and the board, as specified in the Legal Internet Gaming Act (LIGA) and the Legal Sports Betting Act (LSBA) respectively.

Exactly what this means will be explained at the meeting. However, it seems as if the purpose is to allow Kalm and his team to make the last few decisions and throw the metaphorical launch day switch without the need for further votes or consultation.

Closed testing and licensing procedures for operators have been underway since the beginning of December. As of December 10, some nine operators had been given provisional approval for both sports betting and iGaming. Several more had received approval for sports only. It’s likely that the list has expanded in the month since that last official announcement.

That approval doesn’t automatically mean a day one launch, as there are additional regulatory requirements each site must meet.

Chances are that the larger and more experienced companies will have an easier time getting their ducks in a row. Additionally, Michigan law is such that no site partnered with a commercial casino can launch until at least one with a tribal partner is ready to do so, and vice versa.

Thus, the short list for potential day one brands looks something like this, with a guarantee that at least one commercial and one tribal partnership will go live simultaneously:

  • FanDuel (commercial)
  • Hollywood/Barstool (commercial)
  • BetMGM (commercial)
  • DraftKings (tribal)
  • BetRivers (tribal)
  • FoxBet/PokerStars (tribal)
  • Golden Nugget (tribal)

It’s entirely possible that other brands not on that list could launch immediately too, such as Wynn, FireKeepers Casino or Parx, among others.

Meeting will provide some clarity

As exciting as it is for the state to inch closer to the finish line, impatient Michiganders may be just as happy to get some new information.

MGCB representative Mary Kay Bean told PlayMichigan to expect some answers at the meeting. Kalm will be delivering his Executive Director’s report, which will surely include online gambling as a topic, given the timing. It’s also likely that it will come up during the public question period at the end.

Since Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has just signed the interstate poker bill, that may come up as a topic of conversation. Any actual implementation of shared liquity with other states is still a long way off, however.

Bean has also said that the MGCB will release a full list of authorized operators prior to launch day. The meeting provides a logical time for that to happen, if not during the proceedings then shortly thereafter.

With the way things have gone in other states, it’s probably too much to hope for that we will get an exact list of who is launching when. With any luck, though, we will get at least a date for the first launches, and a firmer list of possible first arrivals.

Be sure to check in here again tomorrow, if you’re not attending the meeting yourself. We will update this article following the meeting with whatever facts do come out.

Meeting summary

Unsurprisingly, both resolutions passed unanimously. Executive Director Kalm said that virtually everything on the MGCB’s end has been taken care of. They are now simply waiting on operators to make their final preparations.

Asked about who would launch first, Kalm said he was not at liberty to discuss that. He stressed, however, that the MGCB was prepared to give approval to any operator ready to launch. The Board would not be holding anyone back or deciding who could launch first.

“We will launch whoever’s ready,” he said in response to a question from a member of the public. “By that we mean that they’re not quite ready [and] some are closer than others […] We’re not saying who goes first, who goes second. We’re saying ‘let’s go!'”

Kalm had previously stated that the Board is prepared to green light launches as soon as at least one commercial and one tribal partnership is ready to go for each vertical (iGaming and sports betting). He believes that some operators are close enough that such an announcement could come later this week. If not, then early next week is the latest he would expect.

On the subject of Michigan online poker, he believes that testing requirements might delay the first poker rooms by “four or five days” after their associated online casinos. From the MGCB’s perspective, poker rooms and online casinos are one and the same, so no additional delays are expected at its end.

Shared liquidity with other states could come by the end of 2021 at the earliest. MGCB staff are already in discussions with their peers at the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement in that regard.


- Alex is a journalist from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. Now site runner for Online Poker Report, he has been writing about poker and the online gambling industry in various capacities since 2014.
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