Michigan postcard

Plenty of options

More than a year after legalizing online gambling, the state of Michigan is finally, finally set to launch one branch of its industry. On Friday, January 22, online sports betting will go live for people over the age of 21 who are located within the state’s borders.

State regulators have authorized nine online operators and their land-based casino partners to start taking bets on Friday. Those nine are as follows, in alphabetical order:

• BetMGM (MGM Grand Detroit)
• DraftKings (Bay Mills Indian Community)
• FanDuel (MotorCity Casino)
• Golden Nugget Online Gaming (Keweenaw Bay Indian Community)
• Penn Sports Interactive/Barstool Sportsbook (Greektown Casino)
• Rush Street (Little River Band of Ottawa Indians)
• TwinSpires (Hannahville Indian Community)
• William Hill (Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians)
• Wynn (Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians)

Keeping money in the state

Mike Raffensberger, chief marketing officer of FanDuel, said that legal online sports betting protects customers from unregulated sites.

“Frankly speaking, (sports betting) is a marketplace that existed prior to us launching legally,” he told the Detroit Free Press. “It just happened in (the) black market and the gray market with offshore accounts where maybe you’ll get your money out, maybe you won’t.”

Of course, regulating online sports betting also means keeping the sports wagering dollars – and associated tax money – in the state, rather than seeing it cross borders or go to offshore sites. The tax on the online sportsbooks is 8.4% of adjusted gross receipts. The three Detroit commercial casinos – MotorCity, MGM Grand Detroit, and Greektown – have to pay another 1.25% to the city. Most of the tax revenues are earmarked for Michigan’s School Aid Fund. Another $2 million will go to the state’s First Responder Presumed Coverage Fund.

Poker still a mystery

Brick-and-mortar sports betting went live in Michigan in March, just days before casinos and businesses around the state had to close because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Detroit’s casinos were able to reopen on August 5 (tribal casinos do not have to follow the governor’s orders, though some do), but shutdown again on November 18. They reopened for the second time a month ago at reduced capacity and with strict health and safety measures in place.

As for online poker, we can only wait and see. Sports betting was the top priority, as it is quite profitable and extremely popular. Plus, the state likely wanted to launch online wagering in time for the Super Bowl. Online casino gambling is almost certainly next on the list. Poker, though, is a mystery. There has been no talk as to when poker could launch. It’s the least profitable and most difficult to test because of the anti-cheating and fraud protections required, so regulators are not likely to be in a hurry to get it up and running.

When it does finally launch, whether it is this year or not, Michigan players will eventually have the opportunity to play against people in other states. Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a bill which permits interstate online poker compacts earlier this month. Multi-state poker won’t necessarily be available day one, but it is in the cards at some point.

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