Online casinos, sports betting, and virtual poker are on their way to Michigan thanks to a comprehensive gambling package signed into law by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Dec. 13. 2019. The legislation was the result of a near decade-long push by iGaming proponents to bring the industry to the state along with additional streams of tax revenue. Read on for full details on what you can expect from Michigan’s forthcoming online gambling sites and sportsbooks.
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Michigan online gambling launch dates
Judging from industry rollouts in other states and statements made by Michigan regulators, we estimate that online/mobile sports betting will launch first as early as Q4 2020. Online casinos will likely launch in 2021 as well, but could do so later in the year. Online poker could take a little longer, going live in late 2021, or even in 2022.
|Sports Betting||Late 2020-Early 2021|
|Online Casinos||Q1-Q2 2021|
|Online Poker||Q3-Q4 2021|
We expect sports betting to get up and running first, due to a couple of factors. First, the activity is more straightforward from a regulatory perspective, and second, the state is eager to compete with neighboring Indiana, where the industry is already live. Michigan officials and stakeholders of course want to get online/mobile sports wagering up and running in time for betting on NFL playoffs, the busiest time for sportsbook operators. Not doing so could result in more gaming dollars flowing into the Hoosier State.
That said, the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) has indicated it will do its best to get sportsbooks up and running as soon as possible to fill some budget gaps, and the NFL season rolling into March Madness are two of the busiest times of the year for sportsbooks.
As for online casino versus online poker, the state will prioritize table games and slots over peer-to-peer poker. That’s because online poker has struggled in the US, due to tight regulations which artificially restrict player pools to a handful or even a single state. The majority of iGaming tax revenue is therefore generated from slots and table games like blackjack.
Furthermore, because online poker is peer-to-peer, some additional regulatory checks must take place, such as safeguards against cheating and collusion. That’s not necessary for online slots, so Michigan regulators may find it easier to get online casino games ready to go before the first traditional online poker games get the green light.
Which casinos can offer online gambling?
The Michigan gaming expansion of 2019 was historic in the sense that it incorporates the state’s robust tribal casino gaming industry into the new world of online gaming.
The commercial casinos in Detroit and the 23 tribal casinos sprinkled around the state appear to be on relatively equal footing when it comes to bringing their gaming offerings to smartphones and web browsers for anyone 21 years of age and older physically located within Michigan’s borders.
List of MI casinos eligible for online gambling
|Bay Mills Resort & Casino||Bay Mills Indian Community|
|FireKeepers Casino Hotel||Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi Indians|
|Four Winds New Buffalo||Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians|
|Four Winds Hartford||Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians|
|Four Winds Dowagiac||Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians|
|Greektown Casino Hotel||Penn National Gaming/Vici Properties|
|Gun Lake Casino||Gun Lake Tribe (aka Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians)|
|Island Resort & Casino||Hannahville Indian Community|
|Kewadin Casino - Christmas||Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians|
|Kewadin Casino - Hessel||Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians|
|Kewadin Casino - Manistique||Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians|
|Kewadin Casino, Hotel and Convention Center||Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians|
|Kewadin Shores Casino - St. Ignace||Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians|
|Kings Club Casino||Bay Mills Indian Community|
|Leelanau Sands Casino||Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians|
|Little River Casino and Resort||Little River Band of Ottawa Indians|
|MGM Grand Detroit||MGM Resorts International|
|MotorCity Casino Hotel||IH Gaming (Ilitch Holdings, Inc.)|
|Northern Waters Casino Resort||Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians|
|Odawa Casino Resort||Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians|
|Odawa Casino - Mackinaw City||Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians|
|Ojibwa Casino - Marquette||Keweenaw Bay Indian Community|
|Ojibwa Casino Resort - Baraga||Keweenaw Bay Indian Community|
|Saganing Eagles Landing Casino||Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe|
|Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort||Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe|
|Turtle Creek Casino and Hotel||Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians|
The Lawful Sports Betting Act allows the three commercial casinos in Detroit, as well as all tribal casinos in the state, to offer both retail and online wagering. Each sports betting operator is allowed a single online/mobile sports betting partner.
There are 12 tribes with gaming compacts with Michigan, according to the most recent state report, with some of the tribes operating multiple casinos.
With each tribe allowed one online sports betting partner, there can be a maximum 15 online/mobile sports betting brands active in Michigan, per the Lawful Sports Betting Act.
Under the Lawful Internet Gaming Act, the same casinos can offer online casino gaming. The legislation gives each operator a chance to have one skin for online poker and a skin for online casino. That’s three online gambling skins in total per operator.
MI online gaming licensing fees and taxes
Michigan sports betting operators will be subjected to an 8.4% state tax on adjusted sports betting receipts. The Detroit casinos will pay an additional 1.25% to the Motor City. Monies from online betting go to the Internet Sports Betting Fund.
The sports betting state tax rate would not be applied to retail wagering at the tribal casinos, like it will be for their online sportsbooks. The Detroit casinos will pay the tax on both retail and online adjusted sports betting receipts.
As for licensing, it will cost $50,000 to apply for a sports betting operator license, as well as an additional $100,000 for the license itself when it is issued. It will cost $50,000 annually to renew the license. This structure is industry friendly.
Online casinos will face a tiered tax structure, with licensees subjected to a 20% state tax rate for adjusted gross receipts less than $4 million, up to 28% for AGR greater than $12 million.
The fees for an application, licensure, and licensure renewal are the same as sports wagering. Like sports betting, the Detroit casinos owe 1.25% to the city.
Tax revenue will go to various state coffers or causes, but the sticking point in the negotiations to legalize the industry was the Michigan School Aid Fund. The governor wanted to make sure that the fund wouldn’t be depleted under competition between online slots and the iLottery games.
More on what to expect
Online casinos & sportsbooks
Michiganders can anticipate a slew of online casino and online/mobile sports wagering brands in the mix as the market evolves and matures. For example, the well-known brands FanDuel and DraftKings have been lobbying in Michigan for some time and will definitely be involved.
The launch process will resemble the staggered rollout seen in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Some of the top online/mobile sportsbook brands are also involved with online casino, so the verticals are often available under one roof.
Gamblers in Michigan can expect enticing welcome offers, resembling promotions in the aforementioned states, as well as Indiana which has had online/mobile sports betting since early October 2019. Michigan’s sports betting tax rate is about on par with Indiana’s, so the offers in Michigan should be about as attractive as those in the Hoosier State.
Card players can expect PokerStars to launch in Michigan at some point. The site’s parent company has for years lobbied the Michigan government for the chance to offer legal, regulated online gaming in the state.
In addition, The Stars Group (TSG) recently inked an online gaming partnership with a Michigan tribe. It’s not exclusive, which means that TSG could team up with other operators as well. TSG is currently in the process of being acquired by FanDuel’s parent company, Flutter Entertainment. FanDuel and TSG’s FOX Bet gaming sites will be under one umbrella.
PokerStars was the first to market in Pennsylvania, and the results out of the gate were impressive relative to its performance of late in New Jersey. It’s more than likely PokerStars will be the first iPoker platform in Michigan, and it could be for quite some time after it goes live.
The Caesars online poker network product of WSOP/888 doesn’t have a built-in entry path for Michigan. Caesars and eventual owner Eldorado Resorts both lack brick-and-mortar casinos in Michigan.
MGM and GVC Holdings, which are behind the partypoker online poker offering in New Jersey, have a channel ready in Michigan, thanks to MGM’s ownership of MGM Grand Detroit. Partypoker has made some recent strides thanks to rumors of it trying to pool liquidity across state lines, like WSOP/888 already does, so there appears to be a renewed commitment to poker from the likes of MGM and GVC.
The partypoker product should eventually be live in Michigan, but it doesn’t appear it will be in a hurry to get it to market, as opposed to PokerStars, which looks to be moving full steam ahead.
Michigan online gambling history
For more than half a decade, several parties have been trying to bring legal and regulated online casino gaming to the state. The effort began with the idea that Michigan might become an online poker-only market, but New Jersey changed the calculus when it authorized a full array of online casino gaming in 2013.
Michigan efforts then evolved, shifting gears to consider online slots and table games along with poker. The push inside the Wolverine state was once spearheaded in the Senate by former lawmaker Sen. Mike Kowall. Upon his retirement, the efforts were handed off to State Rep. Brandt Iden in the House. The home base for the legislation had moved from one chamber to the other, but the plan was effectively the same.
After years of work, Iden was able to receive bipartisan support for both online casino and online sports wagering in late 2018, just a handful of months after the US Supreme Court overturned PASPA. Thanks to that high court ruling, sports betting was now included in Michigan’s online gaming efforts.
But despite the successful passage of the gaming expansion package, former Gov. Rick Snyder, who was set to leave office, vetoed the bills on his way out the door. It came as a surprise to many, including Iden.
Snyder explained that he wanted to let the next governor, former state lawmaker Gretchen Whitmer, make the call. He said in a veto letter that the legislation had major implications for the state’s School Aid Fund, a reasoning that Whitmer agreed with.
The legislation faced hurdles in 2019 thanks to the fund, which is largely reliant on the lottery. Fortunately, it was all hashed out, with Whitmer agreeing to a lower tax rate for sports betting in exchange for a higher rate on online casino.
The Michigan Lottery began offering its games online in 2014, an offering that has continued to grow. While the emergence of online lottery gaming in Michigan paved the way for online casino, it was the lottery that ended up holding back iCasino near the end of the windy road that was the legislative process.
In order to reach a compromise with Whitmer, who was once opposed to online slots altogether, the tax rate for online casino had to be raised significantly, relative to what passed the legislature in 2018. The devil was in the details.
On Dec. 13, Gov. Whitmer signed the gambling expansion bills, paving the way for state casinos to offer their gambling games online.
Frequently asked questions
When will online gambling games launch?
Online/mobile sports should begin ahead of the 2021-22 NFL season, with online casino looking to begin sometime in the second half of 2021 as well, but it’s unclear at the moment. Poker will probably go live after casino.
Do I have to live in Michigan to play?
No, you can simply be visiting MIchigan and play.
Will I be able to play games on my mobile device?
Yes, games will be available on iOS and Android smartphones and tablets.
Can I download and register for an online casino or sportsbook account remotely?
Yes, unlike other states, there is no requirement that you travel to the casino in order to set up your account.
How old do I need to be in order to play?
21 years of age.
Can I bet outside of Michigan?
No, the platforms are geo-fenced and games will become inoperable once a player is outside of the state borders. Indiana, for example, has different sports betting apps.
Can I withdraw my money if not in Michigan?
Yes, you can access your funds even if you leave the state.
What sports can I bet on?
Any major professional or collegiate sport that the Michigan Gaming Control Board approves at the request of sports betting operators.
Will Michigan share online poker liquidity?
The internet casino legislation was amended and no longer calls for the Michigan Gaming Control Board to enter into compacts with poker sites in other states. However, the state could still choose to go that route theoretically under existing law. Sharing online poker liquidity likely won’t happen for Michigan until the ambiguity of the 1961 Wire Act is finally put to rest in the federal courts.