MGM Grand Detroit Brings On President, COO Who Launched Mississippi’s First Sportsbook

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MGM Grand Detroit appears to be ramping up its retail sports betting plans.

Following news that the Michigan Gaming Control Board is not looking to put the rules in place to launch online/mobile sports betting until 2021, MGM Grand Detroit, one of the three commercial casinos in the Motor City, announced it has hired a new president and chief operating officer with crucial sports betting experience in one of the nation’s legal markets.

According to Crain’s Business Detroit, MGM announced Friday that it hired David Tsai, who held the same role at the MGM-owned Gold Strike Casino Resort in Mississippi. Pending regulatory approval, Tsai will replace Michael Neubecker, who will move over to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

Under the leadership of Tsai, the Gold Strike Casino Resort and it sister property Beau Rivage Resort & Casino were the first to begin retail wagering in Mississippi. The wagering began in August 2018, just a few months after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Mississippi doesn’t allow online/mobile betting.

In Michigan, MGM will eventually offer the BetMGM platform, under its online gambling arm Roar Digital, in partnership with GVC Holdings. That product might not launch until mid-2021.

“David takes the reins in Detroit at an exciting time as legalized sports wagering is introduced to Michigan,” Jorge Perez, regional portfolio president at MGM Resorts International, said in a presser. “His leadership and experience in Mississippi to be first to market with sports betting operations will be a great benefit to MGM Grand Detroit and its customers.”

Casino coming off record year

MGM Grand Detroit reported $623.5 mm in 2019 gaming revenue, compared with $619.2 mm in 2018. It was a new all-time high for the property that opened in 1999.

The Detroit casino market was worth $1.45 billion in 2019, a new record, but only 0.7% greater than the previous all-time high. The market is basically the same as it was in 2011. In an effort to grow the stagnant Detroit casino gaming market, Michigan lawmakers and the governor approved legislation in December to allow online casino and both retail and internet sports wagering.

In the fall, MGM Grand Detroit opened its $6 mm Moneyline Sports Lounge. The space has the look of a Las Vegas-style sportsbook and is branded similarly to the casino operator’s retail sportsbook in Atlantic City at Borgata, dubbed Moneyline Bar & Book. There’s also a Moneyline book at the Gold Strike Casino.

MGM Grand Detroit basically has a sportsbook without sports betting right now. The MGCB said retail wagering will begin this spring but hasn’t given a firmer timeline.

Tsai will likely oversee the first legal wagering in Michigan, like he did in Mississippi.

When Mississippi began sports wagering, Tsai commented: “This is a defining moment in Gold Strike’s nearly 24-year history. Sports fans have long waited for this day and we are proud to be the first to offer our customers this exciting new opportunity to engage with their favorite sports and teams.”

Brian Pempus

Brian served as a senior reporter and online content manager for Card Player Magazine for nearly a decade before joining USBets in October 2018. He is currently focused on legal and regulated sports betting and online gaming. He's an avid jiu-jitsu practitioner in his free time.

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