DraftKings Lands Partner For Michigan Sports Betting, For Online And Branded Retail Sportsbook

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DraftKings and the Bay Mills Indian Community on Thursday announced a partnership that will give the Boston-based company market access to bring its DraftKings Sportsbook online in Michigan, and will also allow it to outfit a branded sportsbook lounge at the Bay Mills Resort & Casino, located in the city of Brimley in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. DraftKings’ eventual launch of online and ribbon-cutting at the casino are subject to proper regulatory approvals from the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB).

Speaking of the MCGB, the agency is currently in the process of drafting regulations to oversee legal sports betting in Michigan, as well as rules for iGaming/online casino and online poker, all of which were legalized in late December 2019 with a trio of bills signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

From the outset the MGCB has signaled it is in no rush to deliver the final form of the regulations, initially representing that online platforms would set sail in Michigan at the earliest in the first quarter of 2021. 

“We continue to make progress on rule promulgation for internet gaming and online sports betting,” the MGCB’s executive director, Richard Kalm, said in May. “While we expect to launch these forms of betting by early 2021, we hope it can happen sooner.”

In May, the MGCB began accepting applications for online gaming suppliers, beginning the licensure process that will first result in provisional licenses. Platform operators, such as DraftKings, can submit applications but will have to wait for the completion of regulations to gain approval.

Start and stop in March

The first legal sports bets in Michigan came on March 11 when the trio of Detroit commercial casinos opened their sportsbook lounges, only to flick off the lights three days later when sports leagues and casino properties began to shut down nationwide and worldwide when the COVID-19 pandemic began its rapid spread. 

In that three-day span, sportsbooks located at the three casinos — MGM Grand Detroit, Greektown Casino and MotorCity Casino — generated a collective $100K in revenue off an estimated $1.5 million in wagers. 

“Through a commitment to provide customers with a premier sports betting experience, DraftKings is happy to partner with Bay Mills Resort & Casino,” said Ezra Kucharz, DraftKings’ chief business officer, in a statement. “The Great Lakes State presents a number of gaming opportunities and we look forward to collaborating with Bay Mills to provide residents with the best-in-class experience DraftKings is known for.”

DraftKings online casino in Michigan?

Those other gaming opportunities include, of course, online casino play. DraftKings is currently operating its online casino in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania, platforms that have helped soften the blow to revenue due to the sudden stoppage of sports. Excluding, of course, table tennis and Korean baseball.  

The statement from DraftKings and the Bay Mills Tribe does not indicate whether the agreement contemplates DraftKings operating an online casino in association with the tribe, or the sportsbooks alone. Terms of the deal and figures around revenue sharing were not disclosed.

Each of the 12 federally recognized tribes in Michigan as as well as the three commercial casinos are permitted to use up to one partner apiece for sports betting, iGaming and poker. DraftKings did not immediately respond to an MIBets inquiry about its presence in the online casino market. 

“We are excited about our new partnership with DraftKings,” said Bryan Newland, tribal chairman for the Bay Mills Indian Community. “Expanding on what entertainment options we can offer at Michigan’s longest operating gaming facility is always our goal. Our new on-site DraftKings Sportsbook will be one more great reason for Michiganders to vacation with us in the Upper Peninsula.”

Other players in Michigan

Other operators to announce market access partnerships, or which are projected to launch online in Michigan, include:

  • FanDuel Sportsbook with MotorCity Casino
  • BetMGM with MGM Grand Detroit
  • FOX Bet/Stars Group with the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians
  • PointsBet with Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians
  • William Hill with Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians

A launch in Michigan will mark the seventh state where DraftKings operates a branded retail sportsbook. Currently there are DK-branded sportsbooks in New Jersey, Iowa, Mississippi, and New York, and another pair underway in Colorado and New Hampshire.

Given the size of the Michigan population, investors for the newly public DraftKings (NASDAQ: DKNG) must be thrilled to see the company finalize a deal to enter Michigan, the 10th most populous state (nearly 10 million), just ahead of New Jersey, where its journey from DFS-operator to sportsbook began, and where it continues to go head-to-head with FanDuel for by far the biggest market share in the Garden State. 

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Brett Smiley

Brett Smiley is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Sports Handle, which joined forces with the US Bets team in November 2018. He focuses on the sports betting industry and legislation. He's an avid sports bettor himself, mainly on NFL and college basketball contests. In a past life, Smiley practiced commercial litigation in New York City and previously wrote for FOX Sports and SI.com. He lives in New Jersey with his wife Michele, son Nolan, and their two English bulldogs, Chief and Boomer.

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