- US Online Poker
- US Online Casinos
- US Online Sports Betting
Now that Michigan online casinos are live, state residents and visitors will have access to a similar range of casino games to what’s currently seen in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Michigan legalized online gambling at the end of 2019, and initially expected to launch in late 2020 or early 2021. An effort to get the market off the ground by October 2020 proved unsuccessful, but it finally went live on Jan. 22, 2021, following a series of delays.
A total of nine online casinos and 10 Michigan sportsbooks launched on Day One, which was the biggest synchronized launch in US history. A few more joined in the ensuing months.
The Michigan market covers all of the major verticals and, in most regards, is modeled after New Jersey’s successful implementation of online gambling. Its most unusual feature compared with other existing online gambling states is the inclusion of tribal casinos; which, in fact, constitute the majority of eligible license-holders, as there are only three commercial casinos in the state, all located in Detroit.
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The Wolverine State’s foray into online gambling began with a pair of bills passed in the midnight hour of the 2019 legislative session. Taken together, the Lawful Internet Gaming Act (LIGA) and Lawful Sports Betting Act (LBSA) legalized all the major online gambling verticals, including casinos.
Under LIGA, each of the state’s casinos can operate only a single online casino brand. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of these land-based partners to go around. Partnership announcements began rolling in within the first weeks of 2020 and, by the time launch day rolled around, almost all major operators had declared their intentions for the state.
Online casinos and mobile sportsbooks launched on Jan. 22, 2021. Michigan online poker didn’t arrive quite so soon, but followed shortly thereafter.
The initial launch included most major national brands. Several tribal gaming organizations plan to launch under their own brand, but none of these were among the initial lineup.
Yes, as of early 2021. According to the Lawful Internet Gaming Act, anyone with a casino license under the Michigan Gaming Control and Revenue Act can be issued an interactive gaming operator license.
That means the three commercial casinos in Detroit, plus the roughly two dozen tribal casinos scattered throughout the rest of the state can have them. The latter vary considerably in size, from tiny standalone casinos to resorts that have casino floors rivaling the commercial casinos in size.
Each operator can only launch a single casino brand, though they have the option to use a separate brand for poker. With only three commercial casinos in the state, the one-brand-per-operator limit means that the tribal casinos are very important as partners. That’s one major way in which Michigan is very different from other online casino states.
Most available partnerships were claimed well in advance of launch day. All existing partnerships are detailed below, including those still pending launch. Some details about the biggest and most important operators follows.
|Online Casino Brand||Land-Based Casino||Location||Launch Date|
|BetMGM||MGM Grand||Detroit||Jan 22, 2021|
|FanDuel||MotorCity||Detroit||Jan 22, 2021|
|Barstool||Greektown||Detroit||Jan 29, 2021|
|BetRivers||Little River||Manistee||Jan 22, 2021|
|DraftKings||Bay Mills||Brimley||Jan 22, 2021|
|PokerStars||Odawa||Petoskey||Jan 29, 2021|
|William Hill||Turtle Creek||Williamsburg||Jan 22, 2021|
|Wynn||Kewadin||Sault Ste. Marie||Jan 22, 2021|
|TwinSpires||Island||Harris||Jan 22, 2021|
|Golden Nugget||Ojibwa||Marquette||Jan 22, 2021|
|Parx||Gun Lake||Wayland||Apr 23, 2021|
|PointsBet||Northern Waters||Watersmeet||Jan 22, 2021|
|Soaring Eagle||Soaring Eagle||Mt. Pleasant||Pending|
|Four Winds||Four Winds||New Buffalo||Pending|
The Golden Nugget Casino itself may be in Atlantic City, but it has national plans for the online space. It launched its products in Pennsylvania at the end of 2020, just before entering the Michigan market in partnership with the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community and its pair of Ojibwa Casinos.
It is the highest-earning New Jersey online casino licensee, in conjunction with its partner skins. How it fares going it alone outside its home state remains to be seen. Expect a traditional casino experience here, with a heavy emphasis on slots. It has a massive catalogue of slots titles available in New Jersey – over 700 and counting – though it may take a while before the selection in Michigan is quite that large. It also has one of the best first deposit bonuses available, a 100% match up to $1,000.
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 GVC Holdings, though a new company called Roar Digital. 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.
DraftKings is a newcomer to the online casino space, but is already busy making 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.
FanDuel is DraftKings’ longtime rival and similar in a lot of ways. It, too, began life as a daily fantasy sports company before branching out into sports betting and subsequently 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.
Barstool Sportsbook and Casino is a Penn National Gaming brand. In Michigan, Barstool is licensed to offer online casino gambling and online sports betting by Greektown Casino.
During its debut month of February 2021, Barstool leaped into fifth place with $4.7 million in revenue in Michigan. That was a strong start for a brand that had to compete with BetMGM, FanDuel, DraftKings and Fox Bet at the front of the pack.
BetRivers is currently the No. 1 operator in Pennsylvania, where its parent company owns two of the state’s land-based casinos. Lacking a property in Michigan, it has partnered with the Little River Band of the Ottawa Indians and the Little River Casino Resort.
One of its major selling points is its robust platform, developed in-house by Rush Street Interactive, which also acts as operator for all Rivers-branded online products. This includes advanced filters to find the exact sorts of games you’re looking for, and a peer-to-peer chat network and real-time updates on big wins for a more social experience.
Its first deposit bonus has a relatively low maximum of $250, but easy clearance requirements. This will make it a good choice if you’re on a budget or aren’t a high-volume player.
Parx Interactive launched on April 23, 2021. Parx and its partner, the Gun Lake Band of Potawatomi Indians of Michigan, received approval for online casino gambling. Online sports betting is expected to follow.
Even though Parx Casino is well known in its native state of Pennsylvania, it has little brand visibility in the Wolverine State. Launching late and faced with dominant rivals, it may have a hard time being any more than a bit player in Michigan.
PointsBet is an Australian bookmaker already active in a few US states with a mobile sportsbook. It will soon be expanding into the online casino space, as well. PointsBet Casino should be coming to both Michigan and New Jersey in early 2021 if not before, though it’s up in the air which state will be first.
Stars is, of course, a brand most commonly associated with poker, but it has expanded into other gambling products, as well. The Stars Casino rewards program is shared with both the company’s poker product and its Fox Bet Sportsbook. All three are available through the same client, despite the latter’s distinct branding. It’s a great choice for players who like to dabble in different sorts of gambling products, as it has some of the best software in the world and is currently the only poker room in the state.
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.
There are a small number of US online casinos that have either only a browser version, or only a mobile app. The vast majority, however, are available both in desktop browser 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 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.
Types of online casino games you’ll be able to play on your tablet or smartphone in Michigan include:
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.
Installing iOS casino apps is easy, as Apple allows legal gambling products in the App Store. If you tap the Play Now link on one of our reviews using an iPhone or iPad, you’ll be taken straight to the download page. The only issue is that Apple’s policies sometimes lead to delays in the launch of the iOS version.
Android apps face a different problem, which is that Google won’t allow them in the Google Play store. This means there’s an extra step involved in installing them. You’ll have to go to the operator’s own download page, and may have to check the “Unknown sources” box within the Security section of the Settings menu.
Caesars Entertainment watched how well fellow luxury retail casino and hotel brand MGM Resorts International‘s brand, BetMGM, performed financially in Michigan during the past three...
Parx Interactive has entered the Michigan market as the state's 14th operator, in partnership with Gun Lake Casino.
Michigan's online gambling market is chasing down Pennsylvania's for the title of biggest in the country, despite the latter's head start.
BetMGM announces its inaugural online poker tournament series in Michigan. Ten events, $300k guaranteed. Nice but not at PokerStars level.
BetMGM Poker's launch has made Michigan the only state outside of New Jersey currently offering two legal options for online poker.
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.
Browse our reviews here on this page or elsewhere on the site and find the casino you want. Click the Play Now link. We’ll detect the device you’re using and take you to the appropriate place: the site’s signup page if you’re on desktop, or the appropriate mobile download page. If you’re on mobile, you’ll have to wait for the download to finish, then open the app to continue.
Signing up is straightforward, but 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. If the casino has a no deposit signup bonus that requires a bonus code, don’t forget to enter it in the box provided.
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:
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.
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:
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.
If you’re not interested in a full-on real money casino experience, there are alternatives. These were in fact already available before real money online gambling launched.
For starters, many brick-and-mortar casino chains like Caesars, MGM and Wynn have social slots casino apps available. These use play money chips and will top you up for free on a regular basis, though you can purchase more chips with real money if you choose.
Social casino apps won’t pay out in real money, but they do give you a chance to win valuable prizes, like free stays at the company’s resorts, tickets to shows, credit for drinks and meals, etc.
Another option are sweepstakes casinos. These effectively allow you to gamble for real money, but in a roundabout sort of way, which makes them legal in states that haven’t yet passed iGaming laws.
Sweepstakes casinos like Chumba feature two virtual currencies, often called Gold Coins and Sweeps Coins. The former are purely play money chips, and you’ll get some to use for free. The Sweeps Coins can be redeemed for cash prizes, and you’ll receive some “for free” while purchasing play money chips.
What makes sweepstakes casinos legal is that technically speaking, there is no purchase required. You can send in a handwritten request and receive a tiny amount of Sweeps Coins free of charge. As a result, they fall under the umbrella of sweepstakes law and don’t quite qualify as gambling in the legal sense.
|MI Casino||Bonus Code||No Deposit||Deposit Bonus||Play Now!|
|Golden Nugget Casino||PLAYBONUS||$30||$1,000||Play Now!|
|FanDuel Casino||None - Use Links||N/A||$200||Play Now!|
|BetMGM Casino||PLAYNJFREE||$25||$1,000||Play Now!|
|DraftKings Casino||None - Use Links||$45||$1,500||Play Now!|
|BetRivers Casino||PLAY250||N/A||$250||Play Now!|
Most Michigan online casinos offer “welcome bonuses” to encourage signups. These can come in many forms, including:
No-risk bets let first-time users try out games without spending any of their own money. A no deposit casino bonus works similarly, giving players money with which to play the games without forcing them to deposit first. These bonuses can’t be withdrawn — you have to wager with them, and you can keep whatever money you win.
Matching bonuses go to first-time depositors, often matching the amount of the deposit 100% up to a prescribed limit. Those bonuses also must be wagered (i.e., cannot simply be withdrawn), and usually within a certain time period (e.g., 30 or 60 days).
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.
Many of the Michigan online gambling operators also have online casinos in other states, particularly New Jersey and Pennsylvania. To date, it has generally been the case that multistate online gambling sites offer the same bonuses and promotions in each state. However, some might elect to offer special limited time launch promotions. Some will require a promo or bonus code, so make sure you use one from the list above.
There are a few general categories of promotions you can expect to see.
Some online casinos in the Wolverine State will give you a bit of free money or free play credit just to get you in the door. This may be automatic, or might require a signup code. Typically, the amounts involved will range between $10 and $50. The money may be strings free, or have some playthrough requirements. In some cases, you might need to make a deposit before the signup bonus money becomes available for withdrawal.
Casinos which don’t have a no deposit signup bonus sometimes offer you a risk free play period instead. It’s rare to see both. Risk free play will typically have both a time limit and a dollar maximum attached.
You might, for instance, have 48 hours of risk free play up to $200. This would mean that if, 48 hours after your first deposit, you have less money than you started with, you will get reimbursed for your losses, up to a maximum of $200. Depending on the operator, you might get the money back immediately, or might have to wait some amount of time before your account is credited.
Virtually all online casinos have a first time depositor bonus. The standard in the US is a 100% match up to some maximum, which is typically anywhere from $250 to $1500.
The bonus money will initially be kept separately from your deposit. You can wager with it, but not withdraw it. There will be certain betting requirements in the form of a multiple of the deposit amount before the bonus money is added to your withdrawable account balance. The ratio may depend on the game you’re playing; for instance, slots might clear your bonus at a higher rate than blackjack.
These clearance requirements typically have a time limit and are just as important as the bonus maximum. A $250 bonus that you can clear is worth more than a $1000 bonus that will expire when you’ve only cleared $100 worth. Be realistic about how much you intend to play and choose a site that will maximize the amount you clear, not the amount you initially receive.
Most online casinos have a loyalty program of some sort. Playing games will earn you points that you can later redeem for cash rewards or other prizes. The design of these programs varies considerably from casino to casino. Many are progressive, in the sense that hitting certain milestones upgrades you to a new tier of the program and allows you to earn points at a faster rate or receive other benefits.
Online casinos associated with a national casino brand like MGM or Caesars often extend their existing loyalty programs to cover online play. Not only does that mean you can share points between retail and online play, but the rewards you can earn may include things like meals or hotel stays at the company’s properties.
Most operators also have a number of other promotions unique to themselves. These could be either limited time offers, or permanent features. One common type of promotion is featured games, allowing you to earn additional rewards points or direct cash back for playing particular games. The casino website and app will typically feature a promotions section where you can see what’s on offer at any given moment.
Especially at the larger online casinos, you should be able to find the equivalent of almost any game you’d play at a land-based casino. Sometimes it takes a while to get regulatory approval for games, however, so if a newly-launched casino doesn’t have what you’re looking for now, you can always check back later.
For most online casinos, slots are front and center. They’re the most popular product at land-based casinos, and well suited to online play. Naturally, most online slots resemble video slots rather than traditional mechanical reel slots. However, some companies like Everi produce online versions of their mechanical reel slots that play as true-to-life as possible, so you won’t be left out even if you’re a traditionalist.
Some slots feature progressive jackpots. These can be specific to the game, or shared between several different titles at the same casino. Michigan’s rules for iGaming contain special provisions about how much money operators can collect for the jackpots and how frequently they hit, but there should still be some big prizes up for grabs if you shop around.
First and foremost among table games, you’ll find blackjack and roulette. Most online casinos will have several versions of each, some with cosmetic differences and others with slightly different rule sets.
Video poker is also common, as are some player-versus-house poker variants like three card poker. The availability of other games like craps and baccarat varies from casino to casino.
Some casinos have a few games that don’t quite fit either the slots or table games category. These can include number-drawing games like bingo, Slingo or keno. You might find some titles that resemble video games, for instance which involve breaking or matching bricks, etc.
Virtual sports are another product type that can sometimes be found alongside an operator’s casino games, or in other cases, in its sportsbook. These resemble sports betting, but the games are simulated and the outcomes random.
Live dealer games weren’t available immediately at launch, but should become available in coming months. Evolution Gaming, which currently holds a monopoly on such products in the US, is in the process of building a studio in Michigan.
Live dealer products fall somewhere in between the live casino experience and online play. You’ll place your bets in similar fashion to online blackjack or roulette, but instead of having a computer simulate the outcome, you’ll get to enjoy streamed video of a flesh-and-blood dealer spinning the wheel or dealing the cards in real time. Some titles even allow you to interact with the dealer and the other players.
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:
Waiting for legal online casinos to launch was frustrating for some, but they’ll now find that it was worth the wait. 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:
The reality of 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:
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’s always a delay between the legalization of online gambling and its launch, however. Often, it can take a year or more, and the original expectation was that the online verticals would go live some time in early 2021.
Conversely, retail sports betting was launched relatively quickly in March 2020. Alas, the timing was terrible. The state’s casinos shut down just days later, and professional sports started seeing their seasons suspended or cancelled due to COVID-19.
The silver lining to that misfortune was that it highlighted the need for an online option. The Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) hurried its process as much as it could, though ultimately it was unable to get iGaming off the ground before the end of 2020.
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.
Online casinos will be taxed at between 20% and 28% depending on their earnings. Those partnered with one of the three Detroit commercial casinos will pay an additional 1.25% to the city.
The most unusual feature of the state’s laws is the limitation of one brand per land-based casino. This won’t matter much at first, but it does place a harder limit than usual on the number of online casinos the state can host in the long run, and may leave some smaller companies out in the cold once the market is at capacity.
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 has 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.
Once they launch, the 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.
New Jersey, as a well-established market, is the benchmark for legal online casino gaming in the US. In most ways, Michigan should be very similar. Its laws are not dissimilar, and Michigan’s population is only slightly higher than the Garden State’s.
Because of the one brand per casino rule, the market might not become quite as saturated with smaller online casinos as New Jersey has. However, its cost to entry isn’t as high as Pennsylvania, so the ultimate number of brands in Michigan should fall somewhere between those two states.
Likewise, Michigan’s tax rate is higher than New Jersey’s, but much lower than what Pennsylvania charges on slots. This affects how operators set their payouts, so Michigan slots may be slightly tighter than New Jersey but more generous than Pennsylvania.
Finally, the iGaming rules established by the PGCB 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.
Naturally, it’s hard to predict how much money an industry will make when it is still in its infancy. However, the state has predicted that it will initially generate about $25 million in annual tax revenue, and eventually grow into the hundreds of millions.
Those seem like reasonable guesses, and possibly even on the conservative side. At Michigan’s 20% to 28% tax rate, that implies gross industry revenue of around $100 million to start, growing to $400-500 million or more over time. Those guesses seem to be based on New Jersey’s early years, yet the market is much hotter now than it was then, and contains more big operators. It’s not impossible to imagine Michigan beating those goals by a factor of two.
What tax revenue it does collect will be split three ways:
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.
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.
Starting in the mid-2010s, lawmakers took up the topic of online gambling in earnest.
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 core arguments for passage, as stated in the bill, were to create new revenue streams for the state and to offer consumers and the state protection from offshore gambling sites.
Kowall’s bill moved through the legislative process at a rapid clip. In May, the Michigan Senate Regulatory Reform Committee held an information hearing, where 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. Unfortunately, that would prove the apex of the 2016 effort, as the ensuing months were marked by inaction.
There were rumblings that the legislation would tackle online gambling upon reconvening in November, but with a limited number of session days left the prospect of the Senate passing what was ultimately a nascent and flawed bill seemed bleak.
This despite, assurances from Kowall that there was “plenty of time” in 2016 for SB 889 to push through the various legislative chambers.
In the end, the bill was never brought up for a full Senate vote.
Under the version of H 4311 which ultimately passed, license holders have to pay a $50,000 application fee, followed by $100,000 licensing fee at the time the license is issued. The cost to renew is $50,000 annually thereafter.
License applicants are limited to the state’s commercial casinos and federally recognized tribes which presently operate a Class III casino operation in Michigan. There is no hard cap on the number of licenses, however. With three commercial and 25 tribal casinos, it’s likely that many licenses will eventually be issued. Thus, the upfront revenues for the state should be significant, probably to the tune of two or three million depending on how many tribal casinos apply.
Lawmakers supporting online gambling in Michigan faced a significant challenge to craft a bill answering to the competing interests of both the Detroit commercial casinos and the state’s tribes. Early in the 2017 session multiple online gambling bills were proposed, including a couple more by Sen. Kowall.
As happened the year before, the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee passed a bill though once again it failed to move further. By September, however, a new version of the bill emanating from the House Regulatory Reform Committee sponsored by its chair Brandt Iden gathered more support.
Momentum slowed during the next few months, however 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 following year’s legislative session.
Rep. Iden’s bill was reintroduced during the 2018 session and was passed by the House. The Senate then amended the bill and passed it in December 2018, and after the House passed that version as well it was sent to Governor Rick Snyder for his signature.
The new bill was a triumph of compromise, having found a way to satisfy both the Detroit casinos and the tribes with one provision being the Michigan Gaming Control Board would oversee online gambling offered by both commercial and tribally owned casinos.
Snyder had reached the end of his allotted two terms as governor, and among his final acts in office Gov. Snyder vetoed the online gambling bill (along with about 40 other bills). sending lawmakers back to the drawing boards.
Proponents overcame their disappointment, and by March had already proposed bills again, with Rep. Iden continuing to be a sponsor on the House side and State Sen. Curtis Hertel doing so from the other chamber.
The fact that new Governor Gretchen Whitmer had signaled her support of legalizing sports betting even before taking office was a positive sign, and soon it became clear she would be favorable to expanding other forms of online gambling in the state as well. Prospects were bullish for a new “Lawful Internet Gaming Act.”
Iden’s House bill made it through committee again, then after being coupled with other bills was met with some resistance from Gov. Whitmer who disagreed with how some of the legislation was written.
During the late summer and early fall negotiations appeared at a standstill and some lawmakers were beginning to think Michigan might be going another year without passing online gambling legislation.
Compromises were again reached, however, and 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 amended the language and passed it, the House passed the amended version, and Gov. Whitmer signed the bills into law on December 20, 2019.
The new year began with several different online gambling partnerships being formed in MI.
The Stars Group and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians struck up an alliance, FireKeepers Casino Hotel and Scientific Games did the same, and William Hill and the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians also partnered up with eye toward the British group powering the tribe’s sportsbook at Turtle Creek Casino.
As noted above, retail sportsbooks opened briefly in March 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of all casinos in the state.
Meanwhile, regulators made clear in late January that it would likely take more than a year before the first online casinos or online poker rooms would be opening.
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 puttuing Pennsylvania’s slower roll-out to shame.
The state is in need of money, and online gambling would provide a consistent revenue source. Also, competition from surrounding areas threatens the future prosperity of Michigan’s land-based industry. Online gambling expansion is viewed as a way to remain competitive.
Beyond that, lawmakers realize that online gambling is 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.
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.
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.
The Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) establishes the rules, issues licenses, and regulates online gambling in the state.
Any of the three Detroit commercial casinos or tribal casinos in the state is eligible to obtain an interactive gaming operator license and operate an online casino.
An earlier version of the Lawful Internet Gaming Act contained language explicitly allowing Michigan to enter into a multistate agreement and allow online poker sites to share player pools with other states with legal, regulated online poker. However that provision was removed from the bill that was signed into law.
Fortunately, the Michigan legislature rectified the situation in advance of the state’s iGaming launch, passing a bill to ensure that the MGCB can enter into interstate compacts for purposes of poker specifically. Negotiations are already underway with the New Jersey regulator, and an optimistic timeline would have interstate poker arriving in Michigan by the very end of 2021.
The bill features a tiered tax structure, so estimating tax revenue is a little tricky.
State tax is on a sliding scale, ranging from 8% to 23%. The three commercial casinos are additionally required to pay 3.25% to the city of Detroit. Conversely, tribal operators would get a tax break.
Exactly how much tax is generated depends on how revenues are distributed between the various operators, but estimates are it is unlikely to be less than $15 million annually and could easily be twice that.
The best means of predicting gross gaming revenue in Michigan from online gambling is to compare the performance of the New Jersey online gambling industry. NJ has a population of close to 9 million, and so provides a good comparable to Michigan and its population of close to 10 million.
During its first full year of operation in 2014, NJ online gambling generated $122.9 million, spiking to $196.7 million by 2016. Based solely on this, Michigan online gambling operators might expect to gross somewhere in the vicinity of $135-$140 million during the industry’s first year.
In reality, the figure could be much higher. There have been big improvements in geolocation services, payment processing, and marketing efforts since 2014. Accounting for this, Michigan’s first year tally from online gambling could be more in line with what New Jersey generated in its third.