Michigan Takes Big Step Toward Online/Mobile Sports Betting Launch

On Friday, the Michigan Gaming Control Board formally began the licensing process for online/mobile sportsbooks and internet casinos.
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The state of Michigan took a meaningful step toward internet sports wagering late last week.

On Friday, the Michigan Gaming Control Board announced that it began accepting online gaming supplier licensing forms from firms interested in the upcoming legal and regulated online casino/sports betting industry. Michigan passed legislation late last year to bring casino-style gambling to cyberspace.

“We’ve taken another step toward the launch of online gaming by beginning the licensing process,” Richard Kalm, MGCB executive director, said in a statement. “The MGCB encourages suppliers to file applications soon so we can conduct investigations and issue provisional licenses, which are allowed under state law.”

Under the new law, regulators can issue provisional licenses for suppliers, but not yet to platform providers. Platform providers still can complete their applications and be ready for licensure when the MGCB is finished crafting regulations, Kalm said.

A draft of the regulations is currently being digested internally by the industry. Revisions are expected, before potential adoption in the coming months.

Michigan’s three commercial casinos in Detroit and the 12 federally recognized tribes that operate Class III casinos in Michigan are the stakeholders giving feedback.

Accelerated timeline

Earlier this year, the MGCB indicated that the first online/mobile platforms would launch in the first quarter of 2021 at the earliest. With the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily closing retail casinos across the state, Michigan is looking to fast-track the launch to generate new revenue.

“We continue to make progress on rule promulgation for internet gaming and online sports betting,” Kalm added. “While we expect to launch these forms of betting by early 2021, we hope it can happen sooner.”

It’s unclear, however, whether all the stakeholders in the Michigan casino gambling industry will want an expedited launch. Michigan state Rep. Brandt Iden, sponsor of the gambling expansion legislation, said at a recent digital gaming conference that some of the casinos were going to use the year-plus-long process to build out their respective online gambling platforms.

“So what you’re seeing now is that tribal casinos and others have partnered with operators who have planned on one year, and are in fact taking that time to build out their platforms,” Iden explained. “Well, if we get everything up and going in an expedited timeline, let’s just say this fall, you run into a situation where you’re actually going to be at a competitive disadvantage if you’re one of those operators who is taking the time to build out that platform.

“In fact,” Iden continued, “they might not put the investment into Michigan that we originally anticipated. So, you have market issues and then you have consumers who might not be able to get the best options available, or all the options that they were otherwise going to get with this expedited timeline.”

In the end, however, Iden said that the state is looking for new revenue as quickly as possible.


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