Michigan Could Legalize Online Betting Sooner Than Expected Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Michigan Could Legalize Online Betting Sooner Than Expected Amid COVID-19 Pandemic article feature image
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Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Detroit Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson (88).

Michigan launched legalized sports betting at the worst possible time.

The Great Lakes State began allowing in-person sports betting March 11, the same day the NBA suspended its season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19.

Michigan’s commercial casinos generated just $105,548 in total revenue for the month of March due to no online betting and the fact that casinos closed less than a week after sports betting launched.

But there’s a chance online sports betting could come to Michigan sooner rather than later.

The state originally planned on instituting online sports betting in early 2021, as it estimated the rule-making process to take about a year.

A way to introduce online sports betting before 2021 would include using emergency rules to expedite the process, but Gov. Gretchen Whitmer could serve as a hurdle. Whitmer said she did not want emergency rules to be used for this legislation.

Rep. Brandt Iden, who was a key driver of legal sports betting in Michigan, said online betting could still launch this fall thanks to those emergency rules, since gaming tax revenues will fall well short of projections. That’s when lawmakers will take notice that the online betting process needs to be sped up.

“People are itching for sports to come back, as there is not a lot on the television,” Iden told mibets.com. “We have a glimmer of hope with the PGA this summer and football and soccer in the autumn, and there will be a lot of pent-up demand to bet on those sports.”

Michigan could look to neighboring Indiana to gain insight into the financial boost mobile betting provides.

Online betting launched in Indiana just over a month after sports betting went live. In its first two full months, the state averaged a handle of $154.6 million per month.

When the time comes in Michigan, the public and stakeholders will both receive the opportunity to suggest modifications and additions to the rules, according to the Michigan Gaming Control Board.

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