Michigan online gambling news

Michigan Online Casinos

Michigan has a full-featured, regulated online gambling market. Online casinos and other types of gambling sites have been operating legally in the state since January 22, 2021. There are a total of 14 online casino brands operating in Michigan, all with a wide array of slots and table games, and their own sign-up and first deposit bonuses for new users. This page will help you see what’s on offer and choose the best Michigan online casino for you.

The Michigan market covers all of the major verticals and, in most regards, is modeled after New Jersey’s successful implementation of online gambling. Like NJ and other states with legal online casinos, Michigan requires online operators to partner with one of its land-based casinos. It differs from those other states in a couple of important ways, however.

The most important difference is that each casino can only partner with one brand for each vertical. That means there’s a hard cap on the number of licenses, and the state hit that cap almost immediately (although one brand is still pending launch). Unlike in other states, what you see now is what you’ll get in Michigan. There won’t be any new sites launching legally unless the rules change or a new retail casino opens.

Another unusual feature compared with other existing online gambling states is the inclusion of tribal casinos. These constitute the majority of eligible license-holders, and several of them have elected to offer online gambling under their own brand, rather than partnering with a national brand. There are only three commercial casinos in the state, all located in Detroit, and they’re partnered with some of the biggest brands: BetMGM, FanDuel and Barstool.

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Best online casinos in Michigan

The leading online casino site in Michigan is BetMGM Casino, which is also the national market leader. It holds a commanding lead at the moment, but the competition for other top spots is fierce.

There’s a lot to consider when picking an online casino, and biggest doesn’t necessarily mean best for everyone. Further down the page you’ll find a guide to choosing an online casino in Michigan, but if you’re in a hurry to get playing, it’s not a bad idea to look at which casinos most other Michiganders are choosing.

#1 – Golden Nugget Casino Michigan

Golden Nugget Online Casino may not be the biggest in Michigan in terms of users, but it’s the most focused on pure casino gaming. That makes it a great choice for traditional casino patrons making the move to online gambling.

What that means is that you won’t find a lot of tie-ins with other verticals here. Though Golden Nugget has a sportsbook, it keeps it on the back burner, and it doesn’t have an online poker product. What it does have is a huge selection of slots, some of which feature big progressive jackpots.

Golden Nugget is also big on live dealer games. The options for these are still limited in Michigan because the state’s only studio just opened and is awaiting regulatory approval to introduce new games. Over time, however, expect Golden Nugget to be one of the better sites for these as well.

Finally, Golden Nugget has quite a generous welcome package. Whereas many sites have either a no deposit bonus or a first deposit match, it’s rarer to find both in one place. That’s exactly what Golden Nugget offers though, with $30 free on signup for Michiganders, and a full 100% match up to $1000 on your first deposit when using our bonus code.

#2 – FanDuel Casino Michigan

FanDuel began life as a daily fantasy sports company before branching out into sports betting and finally launching its FanDuel Online Casino.

Since 2017, it has been part of Flutter, the world’s largest gambling conglomerate, which now owns PokerStars and FOX Bet, as well. Its Michigan partner is the independently-owned MotorCity Casino in Detroit.

FanDuel Casino was only available in Pennsylvania prior to its Michigan launch, but it is among the top operators there. Like DraftKings, it targets players who might be interested in both sports betting and casino gambling, and doesn’t focus on its slots products to the same extent as more traditional operators.

#3 – BetMGM Casino Michigan

BetMGM Casino is estimated to be the single largest casino skin in New Jersey. Nationally, it had trailed some of the competition for the reason that it was slow to make its way into Pennsylvania. Now that it’s live there and in Michigan, it’s the iGaming market leader and it’s become a force to be reckoned with in the industry.

The BetMGM brand is jointly managed by MGM Resorts International and online operator Entain. MGM’s resorts are high-end properties, and the BetMGM brand seeks to occupy a similar niche in the online space.

Though you will find lower-stakes options at BetMGM, its bonuses, promotions and particularly its M life Rewards loyalty program are geared toward bigger spenders; especially those who also visit MGM’s brick-and-mortar casinos, such as the MGM Grand in Detroit. In New Jersey, it is also known for producing the largest progressive slots jackpots in the state, though Michigan has some rules in place that might prevent jackpots from growing quite so large.

#4 – DraftKings Casino Michigan

DraftKings Casino was a newcomer to the iGaming space in 2020, but quickly made waves. It has both standalone casino apps and integrated sportsbook-casinos in all states with legal online casino gambling. It is partnered with the Bay Mills Indian Community and its eponymous resort-casino.

The company has its origins in the daily fantasy sports space and made itself a household name with a massive advertising push in 2015. Having branched out into other gambling verticals, it still aims its marketing and product at the same core demographic of young, mostly male sports fans. Its casino product is therefore less traditional and slots-focused than most, instead prioritizing table games, especially blackjack. It has been building a library of custom games, many of which feature sports themes, like Basketball Roulette.

DraftKings is in the process of acquiring Golden Nugget Online Casino, which also operates in Michigan. There may therefore be some convergence between the two products in coming years.

#5 – WynnBet Casino Michigan

Wynn is a well-known name in the retail casino space, but took its time entering the online casino world. It did so only in August 2020, in New Jersey. It remains a small player there. It seems to have timed its entry to coincide with the run-up to launch in Michigan, however, as it has been pushing harder there. As a result, WynnBET Casino MI is closer to being in the middle of the pack.

It has easy clearance requirements for its first deposit bonus, but no loyalty program. This makes it a good choice if you plan on playing casually and for low stakes.

Best online casino bonuses and bonus codes in Michigan

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Most Michigan online casinos offer welcome bonuses to encourage signups. These can come in many forms, including:

  • no deposit bonuses
  • first deposit matching bonuses
  • risk-free play

A no deposit casino bonus is the most appealing type of welcome bonus for a casual player, since it has no strings attached. Simply sign up and go through the identity verification process, and you’ll receive some free play. Usually this is in the form of casino credit, which works like money except that it can’t be withdrawn. You can only use it to play casino games, but whatever money you win from those is yours to keep.

First deposit bonuses typically consist of a 100% match up to a certain maximum. That bonus money typically isn’t paid out all at once, but is released in blocks as you play. For instance, depending on the terms of the particular site, you might receive $10 cash for every $100 you wager, until you’ve cleared your full bonus. There is usually a time limit attached as well.

Risk-free play is a less common offer. The deal here is that a clock starts from the time of your first wager, usually 24 hours or 48 hours. During that period, the site is insuring your losses up to a certain maximum, with $200 being a typical limit. If you’re up after that time expires, you keep your winnings. But if you’re down, then the site will reimburse you the amount you lost, up to the limit. Usually, you’ll get the refund in the form of bonus money, on the same terms as a no-deposit bonus. That is, you’ll only be able to use it to play more casino games, but whatever you win in the process will be yours to keep.

Online casinos often offer reload bonuses, referral bonuses, double points deals, and other benefits to players, too.

Michigan online casino players should also keep an eye out for loyalty or rewards programs which typically work a lot like they do in retail casinos.

For example, MGM Grand Detroit has its M Life Rewards program that gives casino players cash or “comps” according to how much they play. It is likely MGM Grand Detroit will offer something similar to those who play in their online casino.

Full list of Michigan online casinos

There will be a total of 15 online casinos operating in Michigan, all but one of which are now live. Here is the complete, alphabetized list of available brands and the main retail property of each of their land-based partners.

  • Barstool Casino (Greektown)
  • BetMGM Casino (MGM Grand)
  • BetRivers Casino  (Little River)
  • Caesars Casino (Turtle Creek Casino)
  • DraftKings Casino (Bay Mills)
  • FanDuel Casino (Motor City)
  • FireKeepers Casino (self-branded)
  • Four Winds Casino (self-branded)
  • Golden Nugget Casino (Ojibwa)
  • Play Gun Lake Casino (self-branded, using Parx Casino’s platform)
  • PointsBet Casino (Northern Waters)
  • PokerStars Casino (Odawa)
  • Soaring Eagle Casino* (self-branded)
  • TwinSpires Casino (Island)
  • WynnBet Casino (Kewadin)

* pending launch

How to choose an online casino in Michigan

Choosing the best online casino for your tastes, playing habit and budget can be tricky. Once the last site launches, Michigan will have 15 online casino brands, which is perhaps an overwhelming amount of choice.

In some ways, most online casinos are similar to one another. There are differences, however, and you’ll have a better experience if you spend some time researching your options.

We have detailed reviews of most legal operators in the US to help you out. However, you still need to know what to look for. Here are some important considerations.

Welcome offers

The first thing you’ll typically notice about an online casino is its welcome offer for new players. Almost every operator has one, and it tends to feature prominently on their websites. If you’ve read the section on bonuses above, you know how these work. However, you need to think about which is actually worth the most to you based on how much you plan on playing.

If you plan on sticking to very casual stakes, you’ll want to choose a site with a no deposit bonus. Even if you do end up depositing, the strings-free nature of these bonuses is perfect for a low-stakes, occasional player. (Suggestions: Golden Nugget or DraftKings).

If you’re just looking to get your feet wet, but have a little more money to spend, a risk-free play period might be better. This will allow you to attempt to run your first deposit up and start things on the right foot, or get a do-over if it doesn’t work out. (Suggestions: FanDuel or Caesars).

On paper, first deposit bonuses often look the most appealing because of their high dollar value. However, you have to look at the terms to clear the bonus to see how much it will actually be worth to you. If you’re a casual player, the amount you can clear within the time limit might be much less than the advertised maximum. If you do plan on playing a lot, however, then the sites with the biggest deposit match offers are going to be the best for you. (Suggestions: BetMGM or Golden Nugget).

Loyalty programs

Loyalty programs, as the name implies, are only going to be worth much if you plan on sticking around. If you’re going to move from casino to casino collecting welcome bonuses, you might want to ignore loyalty programs. However, if you’re going to pick one brand and stay put, then it’s worth looking at what they offer their loyal players.

Another consideration is whether you often visit retail casinos, whether that’s to play or indulge in other forms of entertainment like shows and dining. If you do, then you might want to go with an omnichannel brand which allows you to earn retail rewards through online play. (Suggestion: BetMGM if you stay within Michigan, Caesars or WynnBet if you like to travel).

Conversely, if you don’t like brick-and-mortar casinos, you might opt for an online-only brand that’s generous with loyalty cash and free spins. (Suggestion: PokerStars).

Software

These days, most online casinos have pretty robust software. The main things you’re looking for here are speed, ease of use, and good search tools to find the games you want. Read our reviews to get a summary of each site’s advantages and disadvantages.

You might also consider whether you plan on playing mostly on your computer, or mostly on your phone. Generally speaking, companies that have been around longer have better desktop support (suggestion: Golden Nugget) while newer ones tend to prioritize their mobile apps (suggestion: FanDuel).

Game selection

One thing you’ll notice is that most games are available at most online casinos. This is because it’s comparatively rare for companies to develop them in-house. Most of the games come from a handful of third-party suppliers like Scientific Games and IGT, and these all have deals with most operators.

However, many online casinos have exclusive deals for a few games from those suppliers. These games – usually slots titles – will only be available at the casino that has the deal in place. Additionally, a few companies like PokerStars and DraftKings develop their own custom games. If you’re looking for a specific game, you’ll have to shop around to see who’s offering it.

Another thing to be aware of is that not all Michigan online casinos are offering live dealer games. If those are of interest, you’ll have to find a company that has partnered with Evolution Gaming to offer them (suggestion: BetRivers).

Target audience and other verticals

Some online casinos are run by companies who make it their primary product. Others simply have it as a side offering next to a product they prioritize more heavily. That strategic difference also impacts what features they include, how they design their products, and what promotions they offer. You’ll want to choose a company whose target audience has the same tastes you do.

If you’re a pure casino player with no interest in sports or poker, you’ll want to go with a casino-first company. (Suggestions: BetMGM or Golden Nugget).

If you’re a sports bettor who also likes to play a few hands of blackjack, you have lots of choices, since sports betting is all the rage in the US now. (Suggestions: DraftKings or FanDuel).

If you want to play poker against other human players, then your options are more limited. Only PokerStars and BetMGM have such an online poker product available right now, though Caesars will in time, and DraftKings seems to be considering launching one.

Legality of online casino gaming in Michigan

Online casino gaming is 100% legal in Michigan and has been since early 2021, assuming you’re playing on a site that’s licensed in the state.

The legalization of Michigan real money casinos has numerous benefits, both for the player and for the state. In a nutshell, Michigan casinos are safer for players, and a source of tax revenue. There’s more to it than just that, however.

Before we get to the advantages, however, the first question to ask is how you know if a given online casino is legal or not. Fortunately, it’s not that hard.

If you’re in doubt whether a given casino is legal, there are a few easy ways to tell:

  • OnlinePokerReport only reviews legal, licensed casinos, so if you find a page for them here, you’re safe
  • Their website will clearly state that they’re regulated by the MGCB, usually at the bottom of the page
  • The URL will end in .com, whereas most offshores use alternate suffixes such as .eu or .ag
  • If you’re still unsure, you can call the MGCB directly for confirmation, at 313-456-4100

Advantages of legal online casinos for the player

There are plenty of illegal offshore casinos serving US customers, but they do not provide a safe environment for you to gamble. They are not accountable to any outside organization and are engaged in illegal activity to begin with, so there’s no assurance that they’ll behave legitimately in other ways.

Legal online casinos, on the other hand, operate under the supervision of the state regulator, in this case the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB). That makes for a safer experience in several ways:

  • Games and random number generators are tested and periodically inspected to ensure fairness
  • Customer funds are segregated from operating capital, so your account balance is safe even if the company becomes insolvent
  • Deposits and withdrawals are quick and safe using reputable payment processors, which won’t serve offshore sites
  • Legal operators are required to provide players with responsible gambling tools and monitor their customers for signs of problem gambling
  • If anything does go wrong, you have recourse through the regulator and/or the legal system

Advantages of legal online casinos for the state

Attempts at prohibition do little to curb problem gambling, but regulation can be very effective.

The reality of gambling, especially online gambling, is that people who want to gamble will find a way. If they don’t have a legal option available, they will seek out illegal offshore gambling sites. That’s worse for the gambler, for the state, and for society at large.

Here are the big reasons US lawmakers in all states should consider following Michigan’s lead:

  • Offshore operators pocket 100% of their profits, while legal sites contribute to state coffers through licensing fees and taxes. Michigan expects to make in the tens of millions of dollars annually from legal iGaming.
  • Legal online casinos are subject to Know Your Customer (KYC) laws, and required to maintain records of deposits and withdrawals. As such, they are far less susceptible to be used for purposes of money laundering by organized crime and terrorist groups.
  • Legal sites are required to provide players with responsible gambling tools and monitor their behavior for risk indicators.
  • Tax money from legal online casino gambling in Michigan can be used to fund harm reduction programs.
  • Legal operation is beneficial to the sites as well, and that incentive makes them inclined to accept regulatory direction for things like product design, messaging and responsible gambling measures.

Getting started with real money online casino gaming in Michigan

Legal, real money casinos in Michigan try to make it as easy as possible to get in the game, so you shouldn’t have much trouble. The most important thing is choosing the best casino for you, and using our signup links and bonus codes to get the best possible deal. In particular, you only get one shot at claiming a first deposit bonus, so make it count.

Once you’ve chosen the brand you’re going to go with, it’s time to register an account, make a deposit, and start playing.

Mobile or desktop?

The vast majority of Michigan online casinos are available both in desktop form, and as downloadable casino apps for iOS and Android. In some cases, the products are identical save for interface adaptations to fit mobile screens. In other cases, there may be some differences in the exact lineup of games available.

The important thing to realize is that whichever casino you choose, you’ll have a single login and account balance for both the desktop and mobile versions. So, you can easily change your mind or even use both. However, you still need to pick one or the other to start with in order to sign up and should probably choose whichever will be easier for you, regardless of how you ultimately intend to play.

Most online casinos offer their desktop product directly through your browser, which means there’s no download required to sign up. Having a full keyboard will also make entering your info easy. On the other hand, you can use your phone’s camera to take pictures of your identification documents rather than scanning them. It’s really just a matter of personal preference which you choose.

Downloading

If you’re playing on desktop, you probably won’t need to download a client, as most run in your browser, directly through the operator’s website. There are exceptions, however: PokerStars, for instance, requires a download, but that’s because its casino and sportsbook are both integrated into its poker software.

That said, if you’re signing up through your browser, you’ll be prompted to download a geolocation plug-in. You don’t actually need this to sign up, but you do need it to play on your desktop, due to the legal requirement for sites to verify that players are physically within the state’s borders.

If you’re starting off on mobile, downloading is easy now. Gone are the days of fiddling with security settings and downloading directly from the operator. Now, thanks to gambling-friendly policies by both Google and Apple, players can simply grab their chosen app from either Google Play for Android, or the iOS App Store, depending on which brand of device they’re using.

Regardless of platform, you can also just click a Play Now link on either this page or the casino’s review page. This will automatically detect what device you’re using and take you to the appropriate place.

All of these downloads are free, regardless of which casino you’ve chosen.

Signing up

Signing up for an online casino is straightforward, but involves a few steps. It’ll be almost the same process whichever site you choose, because all legal operators are following the same regulatory requirements.

You’ll have to provide a number of personal details. Even if you’re not depositing immediately, real money casinos are required to verify your identity and age before you can play. The casino will ask you for supporting documents like your driver’s license or passport, and a proof of address such as a utility bill or credit card statement.

You can either scan these documents, or take a picture of them using your webcam or the camera on your mobile device. Make sure all the text is readable and no information is cut off, or the casino may force you to resubmit the documents before you can withdraw.

If the casino has a no deposit signup bonus that requires a bonus code, don’t forget to enter it in the box provided during signup.

Depositing

Depositing at legal online casinos is easy, since most payment providers are now happy to work with them. The exact array of options depends on the operator, but will typically include most or all of the following:

  • ACH / eCheck
  • Visa or MasterCard
  • debit cards
  • online banking / bank transfers
  • PayPal
  • Skrill
  • Play+
  • PayNearMe
  • Paper check in the mail

If you happen to live close to the land-based casino partner of your chosen site, you can also visit the cashier’s cage and deposit in person, using cash.

Withdrawing

For the most part, the options for withdrawing are the same as for depositing, with some exceptions. In particular, most card-based forms of payment don’t allow you to receive money back, so you’ll need to use a different method. Your options are typically:

  • ACH / eCheck
  • PayPal
  • Paper check sent to your mailbox

As with depositing, if you wish to visit the land-based casino partnered with your online casino, you can receive a cash withdrawal at the cashier’s cage.

Which online casino games are available in Michigan?

You can play almost all the same games at Michigan’s legal online gambling sites as you can at a retail casino.

The mobile and browser versions of a real money online casino don’t necessarily have exactly the same selection of games. That said, all the basic categories of games you’re used to seeing in a brick and mortar casino will be available no matter what device or platform you’re using.

There’s a little bit more variation from operator to operator. For instance, sports-focused companies like DraftKings and FanDuel emphasize table games more heavily, especially blackjack, because that’s what their customers like. Conversely, casino-first companies like Golden Nugget go heavier on slots, and may have a bigger assortment to choose from, and perhaps larger progressive jackpots due to the greater volume of play.

Types of online casino games you can play in Michigan include:

  • Single-reel slots: Classic single-reel “stepper” slots, including digital simulations of mechanical reel machines. Everi is a company famous for both its old-school mechanical stepper slots and its faithful digital adaptations of those products.
  • Video slots: Multi-reel slots with many paylines, fancy sounds and animations, bonus symbols and more.
  • Progressive jackpot slots: Classic or video slots with hard-to-hit jackpots that grow over time until won. Jackpots can be specific to a single game, or linked between several different slots from the same company.
  • Video poker: Like playing five-card draw against the machine. Make big hands to win prizes. You’ll find many different variations of video poker, some with exceptionally high theoretical returns. You’ll want to study the correct strategy for the version you choose, however, as mistakes can be costly!
  • Bingo, Slingo and Keno: These number-matching games are slower-paced than slots. They offer good entertainment value for your dollar if you prefer a passive experience with few decisions to make.
  • Blackjack: The most popular of all casino table games. Most casinos offer many versions of blackjack, some with subtly different rules and others with only cosmetic differences.
  • Roulette: The runner-up for table games, behind blackjack. Look for the “European” version, as it has only a single 0 on the wheel and therefore the best odds for the player.
  • Craps, Baccarat, Three-Card Poker, etc.: There are plenty of other table games besides blackjack and roulette, but not every online casino has all of them. You may have to shop around to find the game you want.
  • Live dealer games: These are casino games like blackjack and roulette, but using a live, real time stream of a human dealer instead of a random number generator. More on these below.

Most of these work just the same on mobile as on your desktop. However, games with a lot of options or complicated graphics might be harder on the eyes if you’re using a device with a small screen.

Operator-exclusive games

At most Michigan online casinos, you’ll find at least a few games that aren’t available anywhere else. These products are important to online casino operators because it provides a point of differentiation in an industry where that’s hard to come by.

Some tech-savvy companies like DraftKings and PokerStars do this by developing a few of their own games in-house. DraftKings in particular is notable for its array of custom-themed blackjack and roulette titles. Most of these have a sports theme, like Basketball Roulette or Baseball Blackjack. Some have other themes, however, like DraftKings Retro Blackjack, which is styled after a 1980s arcade cabinet.

However, even casinos that rely on third party suppliers for their games often seek out exclusive deals. These typically involve particular slots titles. You can browse most casinos’ offerings without signing up, and the exclusive games are typically marked as such.

Live dealer games

Live dealer games blend the convenience of online play and the brick-and-mortar casino experience. They have an interface similar to conventional online casino games, but replace the digital graphics with a live stream of a real human dealer. Players can interact with the dealer and sometimes one another through live chat.

Another feature of live dealer games is that there’s no computerized random number generation (RNG). Game outcomes are decided by the dealer and the same equipment they’d use if you were playing face to face in the casino. Although the RNGs used by legal online casinos are tested to ensure fairness, some players prefer to see a shuffled deck or a spinning wheel than an invisible algorithm.

Michigan introduced live dealer casino games in July 2021. Most operators immediately jumped to offer the products. At launch, they offered the following games:

  • Live dealer blackjack
  • Live dealer roulette
  • Live dealer baccarat

More games like craps, casino poker and game show style products will arrive in time.

Here are the ten casinos currently offering live dealer casino games in Michigan:

  • Barstool Casino
  • BetMGM Casino
  • BetRivers Casino
  • Caesars Casino
  • DraftKings Casino
  • FanDuel Casino
  • Golden Nugget Casino
  • PokerStars Casino
  • TwinSpires Casino
  • Wynn Casino

Michigan casino news

Michigan’s online casino laws

As 2019 drew to a close, Michigan ended years’ worth of debate and finally legalized online gambling. Late in December, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed into law a pair of bills known as the Lawful Internet Gaming Act (LIGA) and Lawful Sports Betting Act (LBSA). Together, they covered the full spectrum of gambling options, including online casino, online poker, retail and mobile sports betting, and even daily fantasy sports.

There isn’t a whole lot out of the ordinary in the online casino laws themselves. To play legally, you have to be at least 21 years of age and physically located within the state’s borders at the time of play. Those requirements are the same in all legal online casino states. There are no special restrictions on what types of games online casinos can offer.

Every retail and tribal casino operator can obtain a license to operate one skin in each online vertical: casino, poker and sports betting. In total, there are 15 eligible operators, and each has chosen to enter both the casino and sports betting spaces. At the moment, only two have online poker rooms, but more may be coming.

Online casinos are taxed at between 20% and 28% depending on their earnings. Those partnered with one of the three Detroit commercial casinos pay an additional 1.25% to the city.

Problem gambling in Michigan

Gambling, legal or otherwise, will always carry certain risks. The rush it produces can be habit forming for some and every state that legalizes online casino or other gambling products needs a plan in place to help at risk players.

Michigan already had some problem gambling initiatives in place prior to the launch of online casinos, due to the existence of commercial casinos in Detroit. Online gambling will require the state to expand those efforts, but will at the same time provide tax dollars to do so.

Legal online casinos themselves will provide the first line of defense. They are required to monitor their players for signs of problematic habits and intervene appropriately. They will also provide players with tools to regulate their own play, such as temporary and permanent self-exclusion options, deposit limits and so forth.

At the government level, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services provides help for problem gamblers through its website and the Michigan Problem Gambling Helpline. The site includes a list of licensed mental health practitioners offering treatment for gambling-related disorders.

Michigan Problem Gambling Helpline: 1-800-270-7117.

There are additional options available in the non-profit sector, such as the Michigan Association on Problem Gambling, and national organizations like the National Council on Problem Gambling.

How Michigan’s online casino market compares to other states

New Jersey, as a well-established market, is the benchmark for legal online casino gaming in the US. It’s arguable that Michigan copied New Jersey more directly than any other state, and that this has helped its online casinos succeed.

Whereas Pennsylvania and West Virginia had slow starts, Michigan hit the ground running. Even in February, its first full month of operation, the performance of its iGaming operators was comparable to NJ and PA.

Because of the one brand per license rule, the market can’t become quite as saturated with smaller online casinos as New Jersey, which now has about 30. However, its cost to entry isn’t as high as Pennsylvania, so the available licenses went quickly. The market is now maxed out at 15 brands each for online casino and sports betting.

Likewise, the state’s tax rate is a bit higher than New Jersey’s, but much lower than what Pennsylvania charges on slots. Based on early numbers, it looks like this will prove to be a good compromise for maximizing tax revenue without chilling the market.

Finally, the iGaming rules established by the MGCB include some stipulations relating to progressive jackpots on slots. These limit the maximum contributions to the jackpot and the minimum chance of hitting it, both of which serve to temper how large jackpots are likely to grow. This shouldn’t even be a noticeable effect in most cases, but you may not see Michigan setting national records for biggest wins.

The MGCB has proven itself to be a competent and efficient regulator. Most sites launched on day one and delays for others were of their own doing. The state’s first live dealer studio opened within six months of the market launching. Multi-state poker is expected within a year. Overall, the market’s early days have been defined not by any particular event so much as a lack of surprises in general. That’s a very positive thing in an industry where mishaps can be very costly both in dollars and reputation.

Michigan online casino revenue and tax rates

Before Michigan online casinos launched, the state made extremely modest predictions about annual tax revenue based on other states’ slow starts. Officials said they expected at least $25 million in the first year. However, operators ended up paying more than that in just the first two full months of Michigan iGaming.

Operators pay taxes on a sliding scale, at a rate ranging between 20% and 28%. Those attached to Detroit commercial casinos pay an additional city tax.

Six months in, and the average monthly total for gross online casino revenue is in the vicinity of $90 million. The portion of that paid in tax is around $15 million. Thus, the actual first year total for the state’s revenue, even with accounting for a late January launch, should be nearly $175 million.

The money collected by the state is split three ways:

  • 65% goes to the state’s internet gambling fund, which will pay regulators’ salaries, fund responsible gambling initiatives, and contribute to school aid.
  • 30% goes to the municipality in which the operator’s partner casino is located, for emergency services, job development programs, youth outreach, etc.
  • 5% goes to the agriculture equine development fund, to help the state’s horseracing industry which may suffer some revenue loss due to competition from these new forms of gambling

How Michigan legalized online casinos: a timeline

Michigan has long been a gambling-friendly state. The Michigan Gaming Control and Revenue Act signed into law in 1997 paved the way for three commercial casinos in Detroit, and the state is likewise home to about two dozen tribal casinos.

Early 2000s

For a brief period starting in 1999, Michigan lawmakers expressly outlawed online gambling, although the following year that legislation was repealed. Thus from 2000 forward, there was no specific prohibition against online gambling in Michigan, although no legislation sanctioned it, either.

In 2013, New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware became the first three states to legalize iGaming in some form. That development led to lawmakers in Michigan and elsewhere looking at the topic of online gambling with new interest.

2016

Michigan first threw its hat into the online gambling arena in April 2016, when State Sen. Mike Kowall introduced a bill that would have regulated both online poker and casino games within state lines. The bill included, as justification, the two key arguments for regulated online gambling: revenue for the state, and protection from illegal offshore operators. At an information hearing, it was revealed that SB 889 had been three years in the making.

Optimism rose in June when the bill sailed through a Senate Regulatory Reform Committee vote 8-1. There was little movement thereafter, despite rumblings that the legislature might return to it after reconvening in November.

In the end, the bill was never brought up for a full Senate vote despite earlier assurances from Kowall that there was “plenty of time” to get it passed.

2017

Perhaps the most significant challenge for Michigan online gambling has been the competing interests of the Detroit commercial casinos and tribal gaming. Early in the 2017 session multiple online gambling bills appeared, including two more from Sen. Kowall.

In a repeat of 2016, the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee managed to pass one bill, which then stalled. By September, a new version of the bill  emerged from the House Regulatory Reform Committee chair Brandt Iden.

This had more support, yet momentum slowed once again. An amended version of the legislation was passed by the committee in December, ensuring it would be taken up again at the start of the next legislative session.

2018

As expected, Rep. Iden’s bill was reintroduced during the 2018 session and passed the House. The Senate made some amendments, which the House agreed to.

The new bill was a triumph of compromise, having found a way to satisfy both the Detroit casinos and the tribes. Both would get access to online gambling, but the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) would regulate all sites, even those run by the tribes.

All was going well until the bill arrived on Gov. Snyder’s desk for his signature. He had reached the end of his maximum two terms as governor, and one of his final acts in office was to veto several dozen bills, including the online gambling bill. The effort would have to start anew, with a different governor in charge.

2019

Those pushing for online gambling overcame their disappointment, and by March bills were once more on the table. The effort was now fully bicameral, with Brandt Iden on the House side and Curtis Hertel in the Senate.

Helping things along was the fact that new Governor Gretchen Whitmer had signaled her support of legalizing sports betting even before taking office. Prospects were bullish for the new Lawful Internet Gaming Act (LIGA).

Iden’s House bill made it through committee again, then after being coupled with other bills was met with some resistance from Gov. Whitmer. Despite her overall support for the idea, she disagreed with how some of the legislation was written.

During the late summer and early fall negotiations appeared at a standstill. Some lawmakers were beginning to worry that 2019 would end in disappointment yet again.

It was a nail-biter. In late October the House passed H 4311, a package of bills legalizing online casinos, sports betting, online poker, and daily fantasy sports. The Senate once again made some amendments, the House agreed to them, and Gov. Whitmer finally signed the bills into law on December 20, at the very last possible moment.

2020

With LIGA now enacted, partnership announcements began flying in as soon as the new year began.

The Stars Group and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians were the first to strike up an alliance, followed by FireKeepers Casino Hotel and Scientific Games. Yet more announcements trickled in through the rest of the year and it soon became clear there would be no licenses left unused.

Sports betting had become legal at the same time as online gambling. The first retail sportsbooks opened briefly in March 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of all casinos in the state. However, regulators made clear in late January that it would likely take more than a year before any online gambling sites launched.

The loss of retail casino revenue due to the pandemic encouraged regulators to try to accelerate the process. For a time, an October or November launch for iGaming was on the table. Unfortunately, various delays soon pushed the target date back into 2021.

2021

On January 22, the moment Michgan gamblers had been waiting for arrived. Nine casinos and ten mobile sportsbooks all went live within the first 24 hours. It was the biggest synchronized launch in US history, ahead of even New Jersey back in 2013, and putting Pennsylvania’s slower roll-out to shame.

Six months later, on July 22, the state’s first live dealer studio opened. By that time, all but one of the state’s 15 brands were open for business.

FAQ for Michigan’s online casinos

Are online casinos legal in Michigan?

Yes, legally licensed and regulated online casinos have been operating in Michigan since January 22, 2021. The bill which legalized them, known as the Lawful Internet Gaming Act, passed in December 2019.

To be sure an online casino is licensed in Michigan, look for the Michigan Gaming Control Board logo on the website.

Why has Michigan elected to legalize online gambling?

The state is in need of money, and online gambling now provides a consistent revenue source. Also, competition from surrounding areas threatened the future prosperity of Michigan’s land-based industry. Online gambling expansion was seen as a way to remain competitive.

Beyond that, lawmakers realizde that online gambling was already prevalent in the state, thanks to the presence of black market operations. By legalizing online gambling, the state hopes to curtail black market activity, whilst bringing in substantial tax revenue.

Along the same lines, legal online gambling is seen as a means to provide players with consumer protection benefits that are not offered by offshore sites.

What forms of online gambling has Michigan legalized?

The Lawful Internet Gaming Act legalizes poker, casino games and slots, sports betting, and daily fantasy sports. Daily fantasy sports was already up and running in the state, while retail sports betting launched in March 2020. Online sports betting and other forms of online gambling became available in January 2021.

Who can gamble at Michigan online casino sites?

According to the law, an “authorized participant” or player of online casino games in Michigan must be 21 years of age or older and also physically located in Michigan when playing. Players need not be Michigan residents to play, but must be in Michigan in order to play. The sites are responsible for ensuring both requirements are met via age verification and geolocation technology.

Who oversees Michigan online casinos?

The Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) establishes the rules, issues licenses, and regulates online gambling in the state.

Who operates Michigan online casinos?

There are 15 license holders in the state, each of which can have one online casino brand. In most cases, an online operator partners with a retail casino license holder, and the former runs the online casino while the latter collects a share of revenue.

There are some variations on this pattern, however. For instance, BetMGM operates on the license of the MGM Grand. MGM Resorts International owns that casino property, but also formed BetMGM as a joint venture with the European company Entain. Another example is FireKeepers Casino, which elected to open an online casino under its own brand, but contract with Scientific Games to provide it with the technology to do so.

What are the tax rates for online gambling in Michigan?

The bill features a tiered tax structure, so estimating tax revenue is a little tricky.

State tax is on a sliding scale, ranging from 20% to 28%. The three commercial casinos – but not the tribal casinos – are additionally required to pay 1.25% to the city of Detroit.

Aggregate monthly tax revenue for all operators has amounted to about $15 million in the early going, and may grow with time.

Do Michigan online casinos have live dealer games?

Yes, most Michigan online casinos now have live dealer casino games available. The state’s first live dealer studio from Evolution Gaming opened for business on July 22, 2021, exactly six months after the market launched. About two-thirds of the state’s iGaming operators have contracted with Evolution to offer the games.

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