Michigan Casino Announces Partnership With Churchill Downs For Retail, Online Sportsbook

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Michigan’s options for brick-and-mortar sports gambling continue to expand.

Wednesday afternoon, the Island Resort & Casino in Harris, Mich., announced a partnership with Louisville-based gaming company Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI) to open retail and online sportsbooks through BetAmerica, CDI’s mobile gaming platform.

“We are incredibly excited about our new partnership with BetAmerica,” said Kenneth Meshigaud, the casino’s tribal chairperson in a press release. “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.” Island is owned and operated by the Hannahville Indian Community.

CDI’s Chief Operating Officer, Bill Mudd, added: “We are pleased to be able to offer sports fans throughout Michigan our innovative BetAmerica sportsbook and iGaming product. 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.”

Brick-and-mortar sportsbook open by fall

Pending regulatory approval of the Islands-CDI deal, BetAmerica spokesman Andrew Brown told MiBets that “the hope is for the retail sportsbook to open by football season.”

Islands’s location in the southwest corner of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula may make the casino difficult to reach for downstate Michiganders, but its proximity to Wisconsin, where sports betting is not legal, could make the Islands sportsbook a destination for traveling cheeseheads. After all, Green Bay is just a two-hour drive from Harris, Mich.

Michigan crowded with mobile gaming options, but still no online betting

Wednesday’s announcement marks one more entrant to an anticipated online sports betting bonanza in Michigan. Although the Michigan Gaming Control Board initially signaled its intention to open the state’s market for online sportsbooks and casino apps in early 2021, budget shortfalls caused by COVID-19 related interruptions to the economy have led the MGCB to revise its time frame in hopes of raising additional revenue through state taxes on mobile gaming.

Whether Michigan rolls out online sports betting in late 2020 or early 2021, the market will be crowded with options for sports gamblers.

In addition to BetAmerica’s deal with the Hannahville Indian Community, GAN has partnered with the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians, DraftKings has gained market access through a pact with the Bay Mills Indian Community, Rush Street Interactive will offer its BetRivers online platform through a partnership with the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, Kambi is working with the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians to offer retail and online sportsbooks at three separate Four Winds casino locations in the state, and PointsBet has linked with the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians.

Besides those partnerships between online gambling operators and tribal casinos, the MGM Grand Detroit will access the Michigan market through its BetMGM platform, FanDuel has a deal with MotorCity Casino, and Penn National Gaming completed its purchase of Detroit’s Greektown Casino last year.

The Michigamblers are ready to place mobile bets. Their online sportsbook options are myriad. All they need is for the state to open the gates.

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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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