The Latest On Michigan Casinos, Online Sports Betting And iGaming

Posted on November 18, 2020 - Last Updated on November 24, 2020

This year, Michigan has seen its fair shares of ups and downs. From the anticipated launch of sports betting to a pandemic-forced closure of the casino industry.

Talks of online sports betting and iGaming sparked a bit of optimism, and hell, even the Detroit Lions have a few wins under their belt — who would have thought?

As we descend from the Election Day mountain (which saw a few states legalize sports wagering) and chaotically stumble into 2021, the Wolverine State has a few items of importance to watch.

Potential COVID-19 setbacks

The coronavirus pandemic has been and continues to be one of the darkest periods of time in US history. Resorts were closed, major sports evaporated, sportsbooks shutdown and Las Vegas was reduced to a ghost town. There are few businesses and industries that have been pandemic-proof and casinos are no exception.

Governors across the US took measures to help slow the rising cases of COVID-19 by limiting social gatherings, closing restaurants, and installing strict health and safety measures across all industries.

An unfortunate five days after the launch of retail sports betting, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Michigan casinos would shut down for preventative measures. Nobody knew that would last for five months, from March 16 till early August.

Now the second round of closures, although less lengthy, has begun. Whitmer again said casinos would be closed for three weeks to help prevent the virus’s spread.

There is no telling what 2021 could bring. We have no crystal ball to predict what madness will occur. Scientific experts anticipate a second, more threatening wave of the pandemic could emerge this winter. Perhaps closing down casinos now could help down the road.

Still, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that governors might once again have to take drastic measures to help ride out the storm.

But stay strong Michigan because much like the emergence of Lions running back D’Andre Swift, experts predicted big things.

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Will Michigan online gambling ever arrive?

Online sports betting, regardless of state, will always be a tool of great importance. It will be heavily debated, scrutinized, coveted, and hailed as an economic resource, except for maybe in Utah.

Michigan is no exception.

In the post-election wake, mobile wagering appeared ready for its Thanksgiving Day debut. But not all things arrive precisely when needed. There is no reason to bore you with specifics; the simple fact is, the window to consider and approve rules and regulations is closing.

At this rate, with so few legislative session days left on the calendar, the likelihood of lawmakers approving online betting rules is slim. That’s not to say it can’t be done, but the possibility is something I wouldn’t wager on.

By expert calculations, mobile sports betting won’t arrive in time for Super Bowl betting, but possibly during the first half of 2021. Thus, Michigan residents will have to place bets the old school way, at the numerous retail locations scattered across the state.

But the postponed launch of Michigan online sports betting hasn’t stopped operators from getting ready. FanDuel Sportsbook created a unique promotion for customers who sign up before the eventual launch of online betting. It’s unknown if other operators follow FanDuel’s lead. However, it’s expected that upwards of 15 mobile sportsbooks will flood the state when the time comes.

The state is expected to reap the economic rewards of iGaming, which includes online poker and online casino games. These were given the official sign-off in 2019 but have yet to officially kick off. Still, the Michigan Gaming Control Board has expressed that there’s still a chance online casinos could make their debut by the end of the year. (Online poker will still be quite a ways off.) The market value is expected to attract a number of high profile operators like DraftKings and Wynn.

Perhaps online gambling will arrive much like a belated Christmas gift, topped with a bow and wrapped in dollar bills.

Nicholaus Garcia Avatar
Written by
Nicholaus Garcia

Nick has had stints in Chicago, writing about local politics, and in Washington, D.C., covering the expanding gambling industry. Now back in Chicago, he continues to write about the emerging sports betting market with a focus on the Midwest. Originally from West Texas, he graduated from Texas Tech University and completed his master's degree in journalism at Columbia College Chicago.

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