Michigan Online Sports Betting Clears Latest Hurdle

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Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Michigan Marching Band flag section.

Michigan online sports betting is one step closer to a late 2020 or early 2021 launch.

State regulators advanced a final draft of online sports betting rules last week to a committee of Michigan lawmakers. If this panel takes no further action, the rules can then go to the secretary of state’s office and pass into law.

The Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, a group of five state senators and five state representatives, must have the rules for 15 legislative days unless the committee waives that requirement. Assuming no changes to the current calendar, 15 legislative days from when the committee received the rules would land just before the 2020 session expires in the third week of December.

The Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) would then still need to license and verify online each sportsbook, which can’t be completed until after the rules are finalized.

Multiple brick-and-mortar sportsbooks have already opened, and most operators will have their online applications ready to go as soon as they can begin the licensing review process. MGCB Executive Director Richard Kalm said in a press release last month he was hoping for a late fall launch.

Still, the final licensing process can take several weeks. A more realistic Michigan online launch would most likely come in January, some time ahead of Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7, 2021 – and more than a year after online sports betting was passed into law.

Michigan Gaming Explainer

Even before the Supreme Court struck down the federal sports gambling ban in May 2018, gaming backers in the Michigan Legislature had sought new legal betting options. In December 2018, it appeared Michigan would legalize online poker and casino gaming, only to have the legislation vetoed by outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Snyder days before his term ended.

After Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer took office in January 2019, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the Republican-controlled legislature worked an even larger package of bills that would approve not only online casino and poker, but also sports betting and daily fantasy sports.

After assuaging the governor’s concerns the new gaming ventures would cannibalize state lottery revenues, elected officials finalized a gaming legislation package that Whitmer signed into law in December 2019.

Following their passage, the gaming bills were still subject to Michigan’s lengthy rule-making process, which requires; a set of draft rules, a regulatory impact statement, a public hearing, a final draft and sign off from the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules.

This required state regulators to work with the MGCB, gaming stakeholders, members of the public and elected officials to enact regulations that, among other areas, oversaw responsible gaming, integrity monitoring and consumer protections. Online sportsbooks, casinos and poker operators will also need to be individually licensed by the MGCB.

Though other Midwestern states such as Iowa and Indiana had expedited their respective rule making procedures, launching online sports betting roughly three months after bills were passed, Michigan officials pursued a more methodical process in pursuit of a smooth launch for such a wide-ranging gaming expansion.

Regulators expected it to take roughly a year from bill passage to first online bet, a goal that is still on pace as of October 2020.

Future of Online Sports Betting in Michigan

At least one of the three commercial casinos and at least one of the state’s 23 Native American casinos must be licensed by the MGCB before an online bet can be placed. This means there will be at least two sportsbooks ready by the initial go-live date, but Michigan bettors should expect more to come soon thereafter.

MGM Grand Detroit, Greektown Casino and MotorCity Casino have all opened retail sportsbooks, which were not subject to the same rule-making procedures as online betting. Expect BetMGM (MGM Grand), Barstool Sportsbook (Greektown) and FanDuel (MotorCity) to be among the first sportsbooks to go online.

They will be joined by at least one of the growing number of tribal casinos already partnered with sportsbooks, which already includes William Hill, FOX Bet, PointsBet and DraftKings.

The 2019 bill allows 26 total online sportsbooks, one to each of the commercial and tribal casinos. Eligible bettors age 21 and up can wager online from anywhere within state lines without having to register in person at one of the brick-and-mortar facilities.

The nation’s 10th-most populated state and home to multiple high-profile professional and athletic sports teams, Michigan is expected to generate some of the highest revenue totals among the roughly two-dozen states with legal wagering when it goes online in the coming months.

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