It was a year to remember for Michigan sports bettors, as the world of online betting — well, legal online betting — opened up on Jan. 22, and with it, an avalanche of action.
For the year, 14 sportsbooks set up shop and did over $3.65 billion in handle, according to numbers released by the Michigan Gaming Control Board. To put a fine point on that number, if every state resident 21 and older were a sports bettor, they would have had to have wagered more than $500 each to reach it. That is … incredible.
Of course — much like betting on the outcomes of sporting events — there are winners and losers. Unlike sporting events, however, there is a lot of gray area.
And… they're off!
Michigan becomes the 14th US jurisdiction to launch legal online sports betting.
Operators approved & expected online today:
— Sports Handle (@sports_handle) January 22, 2021
For instance: At first blush, it would appear FanDuel and DraftKings are the big winners so far in the Michigan sports betting market. After all, the two combined accounted for 53% of the total handle and finished 1-2 — in some combination — each month.
But as the year ticked by, perennial third place finisher BetMGM kept tightening the race. By the end of the year, it accounted for 22% of the handle itself.
Clearly, there is a top three when it comes to the sports betting market.
But the next two contenders, while far below in handle, each have a significant part of the market.
Barstool stood in fourth place all year, and while its yearly handle — about 9% of the market — is dwarfed by the big three, there is one major difference: How many Barstool commercials have you seen? The answer is zero, as the sportsbook — part of Penn National Gaming — has instead concentrated on the lodestar that is Dave Portnoy and his merry band of Barstool Sports acolytes to move the marketing needle. Clearly, it’s been working.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Caesars, which started the year as William Hill and was routinely finishing its months near the bottom of the handle pack. It was doing roughly 10% of the monthly business FanDuel and DraftKings were doing before catapulting to doing about a a third of the business of those main competitors. Clearly, the reason for the jump in handle was massive advertising using heavy hitters such as J.B. Smoove as Caesar and Halle Berry as “Cleo,” with the Manning clan stopping by once in a while.
After that … things start getting a little murkier.
PointsBet has struggled to make a name for itself, though it was a clear sixth. BetRivers and FOX Bet are hanging around, and from there, it’s a race to the bottom, with WynnBet — rumored to be for sale — Parx, Golden Nugget, TwinSpires, Four Winds, and Firekeepers fighting for scraps.
For 2022, clearly the big news to watch is what happens at the top. Will BetMGM be able to break into the top two and dethrone FanDuel or DraftKings? And will Caesars continue its late 2021 run and take more market share away from the lesser competitors?
BetMGM dominates casino
On the casino side … it’s BetMGM’s world, and everyone else is just living in it. The company was responsible for a mind-boggling 37.4% of gross receipts for the Michigan market, and that number was not only steady throughout the year, but even ticked up in December to 38%.
Overall, the online casino world in Michigan absolutely destroyed expectations, doing over $1.1 billion in gross receipts. Pre-launch, legislative estimates put the ceiling of a fully mature Michigan online casino market at $600 million. So much for projections.
Much like on the sports betting side, the three companies were the clear dominators in the market. Could there be a future contender — at least to DraftKings and FanDuel, if not BetMGM?
Well … probably not. BetRivers is far behind the pack, and Golden Nugget is right there, but after that, it’s pretty desolate. Even Caesars, with all its advertising push, only managed 3% of the December market.
The big question going forward for the online casino market in Michigan concerns its growth. Is this market already mature after one year, or is there still room to move up? That is certainly worth watching.