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Legal sports betting has arrived in Michigan!
A package of gambling bills beat the buzzer in 2019, clearing the state legislature in December and receiving a signature from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer just a few days before Christmas. That made the Wolverine State the 20th to legalize sports betting and the fifth to authorize all of the “big three” online verticals – sports, casino and poker.
Unfortunately, that all happened a year later than expected. A similar bill passed at the end of 2018, but then-Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed it as one of his final acts in office. Widespread retail sports betting is expected later in the year, but online betting and other forms of online gambling will probably have to wait until early 2021.
Michigan online sports betting was legalized at the end of 2019, but several steps remain before the first apps and websites can launch.
First, the Michigan Gaming Control Board will have to establish the necessary regulatory framework. Next, operators will have to apply for licenses and be assessed for suitability. Finally, there will need to be some testing before launch.
The current expectation is a synchronized launch of online sports betting, casino, and poker in early 2021.
The laws and tax rates for sports betting in Michigan are middle of the road and reasonably friendly to operators and bettors alike. As with most states to have legalized online gambling, any company wishing to operate in that space needs a land-based partner. The only unusual thing about Michigan compared to other states is that each casino can only have one online sports betting partner. Fortunately, with over two dozen tribal casinos statewide, plus three commercial casinos in Detroit, there are plenty of potential partners to go around.
So far, four of the state’s tribes have announced partnerships. None of the commercial casinos have made formal announcements about online betting, but all have begun retail operations and are likely to go with the same brands for their online products. Ultimately, there should be close to 10 online options available, though some may be slower to market than others.
Here are some of the online/mobile sportsbooks you can expect to launch in Michigan.
The first operator to announce a deal in the state was The Stars Group (TSG), which owns PokerStars and formed the Fox Bet sports betting brand in partnership with Fox Sports. TSG’s strategy in Pennsylvania was to pick a smaller partner — Mount Airy Casino — so as not to create conflicts with its own brand. In Michigan, it has done the same, choosing the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians and their Odawa Casino Resort. This is only the fourth largest of the state’s tribal casinos, and significantly smaller than the commercial casinos.
The announcement came in the first week of 2020. TSG was a latecomer to the New Jersey market and also faced delays in Pennsylvania last year. It will likely attempt to launch quickly in Michigan, however, as demonstrated by its speed in selecting a partner.
PokerStars is far and away online poker’s most popular brand, and its casino has done fairly well in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Fox Bet, however, is a new brand and still working to wrest market share away from better-established competitors like FanDuel and DraftKings. Its partnership with Fox Sports gives it a considerable reach, however, and it’s growing rapidly as a national brand.
Just hours after Fox Bet, PointsBet threw its hat in the ring. Despite being an Australian company, it describes itself as America’s fastest-growing bookmaker. Its main selling point is its eponymous points betting product, which allows for variable costs and payouts based on the margin by which a bet succeeds or misses. For example, the amount a player wins or loses when placing a points bet on the game total will depend on the margin by which the game’s score exceeds or falls short of the line.
PointsBet’s partnership is with the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians and their Northern Waters Casino Resort. At the time the deal was announced, it covered online sports betting and casino only. However, the two are in negotiations to have PointsBet run the casino’s retail sportsbook as well.
PointsBet currently offers online sports betting in New Jersey and Iowa, though Michigan will be its first online casino.
Later in January, Scientific Games (SG) became the third to confirm its upcoming entry to the state. Its land-based partner will be FireKeepers, one of the state’s largest tribal casinos, which is owned and operated by the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi.
Unlike Fox Bet and PointsBet, SG is a business-to-business company, providing software to companies wishing to operate under their own brand. In other states, that includes clients such as Golden Nugget, Caesars and the Pennsylvania Lottery. The deal, therefore, signals FireKeepers’ intention to use its own name for its online sportsbook and casino. Scientific Games will also operate its retail sportsbook.
The British sportsbook giant William Hill was the fourth to announce a partner in late February. Like the others, it elected to go with a tribal partner, rather than a commercial casino. Its partner is Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians (GTB).
William Hill has a strong retail sportsbook presence in the US, particularly in Nevada. Hill’s US online operations are, so far, limited to New Jersey and Iowa. Like PointsBet, it has yet to launch a US online casino but plans to do so in Michigan. Its international online operations already include both casino and poker.
GTB’s primary retail sportsbook will be at the larger of its two gambling properties, Turtle Creek Casino and Hotel, with a satellite location at the nearby Leelanau Sands Casino. William Hill will likewise operate both.
Although it held off on making an official announcement, it was always more or less a given that BetMGM would have both retail and online sports betting and an online casino in the state. The MGM Grand is one of the three Detroit commercial casinos, and MGM Resorts has established a joint venture with international gambling titan GVC. That partnership is called Roar Digital, and the BetMGM brand is a part of that.
On March 11, BetMGM opened its retail sportsbook at the MGM Grand. Like other operators, it isn’t expected to be able to launch its online app until next year.
BetMGM already operates both retail and online sportsbooks in Nevada, New Jersey and West Virginia, and should launch in more states soon.
Unlike some of the others, FanDuel Sportsbook held off on making an announcement until just before launching retail operations. The same day that BetMGM and Penn National went live, it revealed that it would be providing sports betting for Greektown Casino. It began its operations the following day. So far, there’s been no official word about online options, but based on other states, we can probably assume FanDuel will also be providing Greektown with an online sportsbook and casino, but no poker.
FanDuel Sportsbook is one of the most prolific in the country. It already offers mobile betting in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Indiana. It has retail sportsbooks in all those states, plus Iowa and New York.
Penn National owns the Greektown Casino in Detroit. It was therefore a given that it would go with one of its partners for its online sportsbook. There was some speculation that this would end up being DraftKings, but instead it seems more likely that it will be Barstool Sports, with whom it partnered just this January.
Penn National already has multiple sportsbooks in other states, both retail and online. It typically uses partners’ branding for them, however. None with the Barstool brand have yet launched, but the first retail location is expected in West Virginia shortly.
Greektown opened a retail sportsbook in March, simply called “The Sportsbook.” It’s understood that this is temporary, however, and it will switch to Barstool Sports branding soon. That being the case, Penn National’s online sportsbook will probably be Barstool as well.
Several prominent operators active in other states haven’t yet announced their plans in Michigan. A nonexhaustive list of companies that will likely have Michigan online sportsbook includes:
All three commercial casinos are now spoken for, at least for retail betting. Outside of Detroit, however, there are still many tribal gaming partnerships up for grabs. Foremost among these are Four Winds and Soaring Eagle. Soaring Eagle is a single casino, albeit a large one. Four Winds, on the other hand, has three casinos in Michigan plus one in Indiana. The latter is currently in negotiations with that state to be able to offer sports betting and may be looking to secure a partner for both states at once.
Although Michigan residents will likely have to wait until 2021 to place bets online, retail betting is already here. Despite remaining silent through the first two months of the year, all three of Detroit’s commercial casinos launched their sportsbooks in quick succession on March 11 and 12.
MGM’s sportsbook uses the BetMGM brand, as one would expect. Greektown’s is currently just called “The Sportsbook,” but should be a Barstool Sportsbook once that brand launches. MotorCity Casino’s is a FanDuel Sportsbook.
The intention behind the mid-March launch was to get up and running in time for NCAA basketball’s March Madness. Concerns surrounding the global coronavirus pandemic may yet lead that tournament to be postponed or cancelled, however.
So far, none of the tribal casinos have yet launched their sportsbooks. These are expected later in the year, perhaps in time for the beginning of the NFL season if that proceeds as originally planned.
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Here are answers to some common questions about online sports betting in Michigan.
Retail sports betting was legalized in December 2019, and the first sportsbooks became operational in March 2020. At the moment, the three commercial casinos in Detroit are the only places you can legally place bets in the state.
The situation in Michigan is currently the same for online sports betting as it is for retail. The activity was legalized in December 2019, but licenses still need to be issued before any mobile betting apps and websites can launch.
Three retail sportsbooks are already live at the Detroit casinos. Tribal casinos are expected to launch sometime over the summer. Mobile sports betting and other forms of online gambling aren’t expected until early 2021.
Once sports betting goes live, it will be open to any eligible person 21 years or older who is physically present in the state. It is not necessary to be a state resident in order to bet. Standard exclusions will apply, for instance, to anyone directly involved in the sport in question or to those who’ve requested self-exclusion.
Most of the state’s casinos will likely have retail sports betting. That includes three commercial casinos in Detroit, plus more than two dozen tribal casinos.
No. You will be able to register for Michigan’s online sportsbooks through the website or app.
Yes. Michigan’s sports betting law doesn’t contain any special restrictions on college sports, including the state’s own teams.
License applications cost $50,000 upon submission, $100,000 upon approval, and $50,000 annually thereafter. The state tax rate is 8.5% of gross revenue. Detroit’s commercial casinos will pay an additional 1.25% to the city.
Michigan sports betting tax revenue will be earmarked for a variety of purposes. The largest single beneficiary will be the state’s School Aid Fund, which will receive about a quarter of what is expected to be almost $20 million in annual tax revenues.
Like all forms of gambling, the Michigan Gaming Control Board oversees sports betting in the state.
Michigan Gaming Control Board
3062 West Grand Boulevard, Suite L-700
Detroit, MI 48202-6062
Email: [email protected]