Michigan Approves Fifteen Licenses for Online Sports Wagering in Early 2021

  • By awarding 15 confirmed licenses, MI bettors can expect to be in online action soon
  • MI Native American tribes hold powerful force with a tie-in to many well-known operators
  • Mid-January start is hopeful but legislative roadblocks in the process may cause a slight delay

Michiganders will have no lack of opportunity or choice to place their sports wagers very soon when the state officials will begin accepting bets for a variety of sports. The state has awarded a very generous allotment of 15 licenses to operators who will compete for customer’s wagering dollars.

The approval process looks to be approximately a four-week turnaround time from the time the licenses are awarded to launch by the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB). That is good news for state residents meaning online wagering in Michigan could effectively happen as early as mid-January with no interference or problem. The Joint Committee on Legislative Rules waived through rules regarding online sports betting and casino gaming on December 2, the final piece needed for some operators to fulfill requirements as part of their application process.

Richard S. Kalm, MGCB Executive Director said in a statement released by the regulatory body:

The MGCB now can approve provisional licenses following the filing of the administrative rules for online gaming and sports betting on Dec. 2 with the Office of the Great Seal. The platform providers still must meet other regulatory requirements before online gaming and sports betting can launch in Michigan. The launch date will depend on how quickly they can fulfill the requirements.

The licenses to operate and conduct online and sports wagering business in Michigan were awarded to BetMGM, DraftKings Sportsbook, FanDuel, Fox Bet, GAN, Golden Nugget Online Gaming, Kambi, NYX Digital Gaming, Parx Interactive, Penn Sports Interactive, PointsBet, Rush Street Interactive, Churchill Downs Inc’s TwinSpires, Caesars Sportsbook and Wynn Sports Interactive.

Regarding when any of those licensees’ sites might launch, Kalm mentioned it will depend on how quickly the platform providers meet other regulatory requirements, including independent testing of platforms and games, approval of internal controls, and securing occupational licenses for certain key staff.

He also indicated that the MGCB was not necessarily tied to having all operators launch simultaneously to ensure any specific first-mover advantage. Kalm expressed providers’ ability to meet the above requirements “will ultimately determine which entities can be licensed for launch first.”

Michigan Native American Tribes a Major Factor

Many of the major sportsbook operators have links to Michigan’s tribal casinos including BetMGM, Penn National Gaming, and FanDuel. While currently open during COVID-19, several of these casinos are running at reduced capacity. By official order, Detroit casinos were ordered to close for the second time in mid-November due to the pandemic.

That closure is weighing heavily on Michigan to begin online sports wagering ASAP. November’s report showed combined revenue of only $50.4 million, about half of the October monthly total. Table and slots gaming combined for $48.1 million of that total, while retail sports wagering contributed only $2.3 million in revenue. A figure is less than one-third of October’s figures on a handle of $25 million handles. As a side, it also reflected how important the impact and contribution of missing “online sports wagering” was.

Other operators have also opted to enter Michigan through tribal gaming partners including Caesars Sportsbook, DraftKings Sportsbook, BetRivers, and PointsBet.

The Timing

While a mid-January start is the most hopeful date for all bettors it still might not be 100% possible due to satisfying all checkmarks through the Michigan legislature.

The iGaming and sports wagering package could move to the governor’s desk this week, according to Sen. Curtis Hertel, an East Lansing Democrat who has been involved in negotiations. The full Senate last Tuesday afternoon gave final approval to one of the ten bills in the gaming package, a bill that would rewrite the rules for Detroit’s three casinos.

The Senate, which required support from three-quarters of the chamber to pass the bill, voted 34-4 in favor of the measure. The chamber is expected to vote on the rest of the package on Wednesday.

The overall package loosens some of the restrictions on Detroit’s three casinos and legalizes online gaming, online fantasy sports contests, sports betting, and advance-deposit wagering involved in horse racing.

Hertel said,

We’d love if it were ready for the Super Bowl. I doubt because of the rules process that it actually will be, but certainly by March Madness.

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Larry Gibbs

Expert on Sports Betting Industry

Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.

Email: [email protected]