UP Casino Retail Sportsbook Opens In Time For Rare ‘Super Sports Equinox’

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Thursday evening, sports bettors will have more wagering options and sports action to follow than on almost any other date in the history of competitive athletics.

There’s an NBA playoff game headlined by LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and the Los Angeles Lakers; the Las Vegas Knights and Dallas Stars facing off in game three of the NHL Western Conference Finals; a slate of 12 MLB games; an MLS match between the Seattle Sounders and San Jose Quakes; Serena Williams playing in the U.S. Open semifinals; college football action pitting the University of Miami Hurricanes against the University of Alabama-Birmingham Blazers; and the grand-daddy of them all, the first game of the 2020-21 NFL season, with defending Super Bowl champions the Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Houston Texans.

FOX Sports’ Martin Rogers is calling the occasion a “super sports equinox.” Before today, all four major North American team sports leagues have all been in action on the same day 21 times. Toss in the MLS and college football, and it’s a six-way sports bonanza that has only occurred twice before. Add the women’s semis of the U.S. Open and, well, Thursday could arguably boast the most packed sports schedule of any single day — ever.

And the Wolverine State’s newest brick-and-mortar sportsbook has opened just in time to capture the action. Thursday, the Island Resort & Casino in Harris, Mich., opened its retail sportsbook, together with sports betting platform BetAmerica, a property of Kentucky-based gaming company Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI).

“[The NFL] was the big push,” said Island General Manager Tony Mancilla, in an interview with TopUSCasinos. “We were going to try to move in before the start of March Madness, but then COVID happened and it was a natural delay. But to open for the start of the NFL was really important.”

Retail sportsbooks first, mobile betting to come

Once Thursday’s first bets were placed, Island, which is owned and operated by the Hannahville Indian Community, became the fourth tribal gaming operator in Michigan and the first in the Upper Peninsula to offer retail sports betting, with intentions to add mobile wagering and casino iGaming through BetAmerica’s app when state regulators give the planned green light to online gambling later this year.

The sportsbook is located inside the Island casino’s T. McC’s Sports Bar, which installed the region’s only video wall and personalized viewing monitors for bettors as part of an $8 million expansion completed in 2015. A row of BetAmerica kiosks flanks the room, providing touchscreen wagering services right in front of the video wall.

Image courtesy of Island Resort & Casino

“We are incredibly excited about our new partnership with BetAmerica,” said Kenneth Meshigaud, the casino’s tribal chairperson when Island announced its partnership with BetAmerica in early August. “The BetAmerica sportsbook will expand upon our already compelling number of entertainment options, and provides another great reason for people to come and visit us up here on Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula.”

The feeling was mutual, according to Bill Mudd, CDI’s chief operating officer. “We are pleased to be able to offer sports fans throughout Michigan our innovative BetAmerica sportsbook and iGaming product,” Mudd said last month. “Guests of Island Resort & Casino as well as online players in Michigan will be able to access sports betting, the best in online casino games and unique promotions through BetAmerica.”

The casino has planned a grand opening celebration for Friday, Sept. 25, with special prizes and promotions planned to entice sports bettors, but it’s hard to get any more grand than the sportsbook accepting its first wagers during a rare sports equinox, on one of the busiest days of most gamblers’ lifetimes.

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Rafe Bartholomew

Rafe has worked as an editor and writer at Harper's Magazine, Grantland, Eater, and The Athletic. He is a co-author of the New York Times Bestselling book Basketball: A Love Story and the author of two other books, Pacific Rims and Two and Two.

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