Michigan Online Sports Betting and Gaming Launch Date Expected Shortly

Michigan Online Sports Betting and Gaming Launch Date Expected Shortly article feature image

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

The wait for Michigan online sports betting, casino gaming and real-money poker is in its final days.

The date and initial operator list for Michigan’s long-awaited online gaming launch will be announced by Jan. 18 at the latest, said Michigan Gaming Control Board Executive Director Richard Kalm at a meeting Tuesday. Assuming all approvals are met, Michigan residents and visitors will be able to deposit and wager with the first wave of online operators by the end of the month.

“We’re very close. I wish I could give an exact day and time, but each day that changes,” Kalm said. “We’re gathering information daily. So we’re very close. That’s the best answer I can give right now.”

After more than a year of waiting, Michigan’s online sports betting launch appears it will be ready to go before the Feb. 7 kickoff to this year’s Super Bowl, historically the single highest-grossing event for U.S. sportsbooks.

Michigan Launch Comes into Focus

Though officials at Tuesday’s board meeting wouldn’t disclose publicly the go live date or initial approved operators, a timeline for online gaming in Michigan is coming into focus.

After MGCB officials grant the go live date, which could come in the next few days, it will still be four or five additional days after that until the first operators can accept bets, Kalm said, during which time mobile operators must pass final testing and certification. Michigan’s 2019 sports betting law also requires at least one of the state’s commercial casinos and one of its Native American casinos earn their respective online wagering licenses before betting can begin.

Kalm reaffirmed Tuesday the exact timeline remains in flux, but that should still allow the first bets to be placed before the end of January.

In the meantime, Michigan bettors can begin downloading sportsbook and iGaming apps ahead of the launch. Michigan’s three commercial casinos along with a dozen tribal casinos have already formalized online sports betting and iGaming partnerships.

Partner operators such as DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM, Barstool Sports, PointsBet and William Hill are among the dozen or so sportsbooks expected to go live on or near the official launch date. Retail sports betting began in March 2020, but multiple casino closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic have handicapped wagering options and fueled interest in the online launch, which is projected to make up as 90% or more of total betting handle.

The 10th-largest state by population, Michigan is set to be one of the largest sports betting markets in the country. It will be the second most populated state with both online sports betting and iGaming, trailing only Pennsylvania.

Long Rollout Nears Conclusion

Signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in December 2019, Michigan’s package of online sports betting, poker, iGaming and daily fantasy regulations underwent more than a year of review, rulemaking and certification. Michigan regulators were required by state law to craft rules, take public comment, submit a financial impact statement and receive final sign off from a state legislative body, a process that wasn’t completed until last month.

Kalm said officials turned around the required gaming rules faster than any other set of regulations in his 13 years with the MGCB. Officials also expedited occupational, vendor and supplier licenses, a process Kalm said still took significant time as officials had to not only write and earn certification for their proposed rules, but then license three commercial and 12 tribal gaming operators as well as their affiliates and partners.

“It’s a monumental task that was done in less than a year and my staff should be commended for that,” Kalm said. “Simultaneous to that, COVID hit and we launched retail sports betting, so there was an enormous amount of work.”

Now, Kalm said, it comes down to final software testing, internal control monitoring and documentation. The director said some operators were closer to approval than others, but the MGCB would advance any approved operator they could at this month’s anticipated go-live date and that more would follow once they have earned final approval.

“We’re not going to differentiate. If they have all their suite of games ready to launch, they can launch. If they only have sports betting, they can launch, or either way,” Kalm said. “We don’t want to be the ones standing in the way. We really just want to make sure all those safeguards are in place.”

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