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Fluid Michigan Sports Betting Situation Takes Positive Turn

Fluid Michigan Sports Betting Situation Takes Positive Turn
Detroit Tigers - Comerica Park - Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images/AFP

The Michigan online sports betting situation has been fluid at best the last few months but a ruling Thursday officially paved the way for betting apps to finally go live in the state early in 2021. The Michigan Gaming Control Board will never be criticized to rushing the process. After ebbs and flows with regard to legalization, the MGCB took its time to finally reach what is being hailed as a long-overdue and positive decision for the sports betting industry in the state.

The MGCB has indicated that the end of 2020 is not a realistic timeframe for the launch of the Michigan online sports betting platform. The goal appears to be Super Bowl for rollout – March Madness as the absolute latest for the 15 online sportsbook licenses to be operational. Testing requirements, including independent testing certification and occupational licensing for key employees still must be completed. Legislators have pointed to sometime in January that this process is completed making Super Bowl Sunday, traditionally the most bet-on event in the US annually a tangible goal.

Who Got the 15 Licenses?

15 provisional iGaming and sports betting operator licenses have been approved, pending all of the regulatory approvals. According to Michigan Gaming Control Board Executive Director Richard Kalm: “The launch date will depend on how quickly they can fulfill the requirements,”.

Barstool Sportsbook, BetMGM, BetRivers, Churchill Downs (which typically uses the BetAmerica brand), the two US DFS giants, FOX Bet, GAN, Golden Nugget, Kambi, Parx, PointsBet, Scientific Games, William Hill and WYNNBet are the lucky 15 that have received approval in the state and will be the providers battling it out for online gambling dollars in Michigan. All are expected to immediately take advantage of the bustling Michigan scene.

Speaking of the Michigan Scene

Michigan has long been identified as one of the more anticipated markets in the US. It has lived up to expectations so far despite the lack of a lucrative mobile scene. While November’s total handle hasn’t been released just yet, a 16-day sample size of the amount of legal sports betting in the state revealed $25.1 million in bets and $2.3 million in revenues for the short period.

The Michigan sports betting scene, minus any online platform has generated a bit more than $120 million in retail handle since launching in mid-March days prior to the first COVID-19 lockdowns.

Michigan is home to a population of 10 million (10th in the Nation) and a healthy pro sports betting infrastructure. There is the Detroit Lions of the NFL, the Detroit Pistons of the NBA, the Detroit Tigers of MLB, the Detroit Red Wings of the NHL and two major collegiate programs the Michigan Wolverines and Michigan State Spartans piquing interest in the sports-crazed state.

According to, the Michigan legal betting market in the state is expected to elevate into an elite category with an eye-opening $650 million in betting and online revenues its first year. Some estimates see the sports betting market hit between $4 billion to $6 billion once the market fully matures.

Looking Back

It has been a long road toward legal online sports betting in Michigan, one that was complicated, like everything else on the planet, by COVID-19. It was December, 2019 that legalized sports betting became reality in the state. The platform’s rules and regulations were drafted in record-time and in-person sports betting went live in March, one week before the state was forced to shutter all of its casinos because of the coronavirus.

Originally, the state was conscious of the fact that an online platform would take some more time. The start of the NFL season was the target for mobile betting in Michigan, then Thanksgiving was the proposed launch date, and a few weeks ago, a more realistic end-of-the-year/beginning-of-2021 was revealed as the drop-dead launch timeframe.

Translation – the fight has been arduous and it has been plagued by many unforeseen events but online sports betting is long-overdue for the state of Michigan.

Looking Forward

There is still a bit of work to do before Michigan residents will be able to bet on their favorite team from the comfort of their couch. “The legislation has to pass, which it has, and then you’ve got to work through compliance and get everything up and running,” said Jim Kahler, the executive director of the Center of Sports Administration at Ohio University.

“It’s a fair amount of work to get the logistics worked out. All the sports gambling companies want to make sure they’re 100 percent compliant and they’re following all the rules of the state. The one thing that I have come to appreciate is that one size does not fit all. Every state is going to have its own nuances to the way the bills have been written.”

Jim Wise, the vice president of marketing at FireKeepers Casino in Battle Creek, Michigan recently said: “This isn’t as easy as a brick-and-mortar, where you’d say, ‘Well, you can open. We just won’t have this certain restaurant ready or we’ll have a section of the slots closed off,’ or something of that nature,” Wise said. “This is online. You’re either ready to go or you’re not.”

Well, it appears that Michigan is ready to go and that benefits everybody tied to the legal sports betting industry including the state and local coffers that are about to see a spike in their monthly tax top-ups. Michigan, with the news is poised to enter some elite company in the US legal sports betting industry, among the very best and challenging for the title of America’s most Bet-Friendly State.