Michigan Tribe Announces $100 MM Casino Expansion Project, But Doesn’t Mention Sportsbook

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A Michigan tribal casino is getting a makeover.

On Oct. 16, the Gun Lake Tribe in Michigan, owner of the Gun Lake Casino near Grand Rapids, released details of a $100 mm expansion project. The expansion includes additional gaming space. The tribe didn’t mention a retail sportsbook in its plans. Under a sports betting bill on the table from state Rep. Brandt Iden, tribal casino operators could have sportsbooks. The legislation is still in is drafting stage, so the precise impact on — and involvement of — Michigan tribal casinos is unclear.

The tribe said that preliminary site work is underway. It’s expected to be completed in mid-2021.

“We are proud of the effort of our team members that has driven the continued success of Gun Lake Casino and our tribe’s contributions to Michigan’s economy in the last eight years. These expansion plans allow us to build on these efforts and provide even more employment opportunities and increased economic impact in our local communities,” Tribal Chairman Bob Peters said in a statement.

The tribe said that the additional gaming space will include the addition of 450 slot machines and 12 additional table games. The property currently has more than 2k slots and 47 tables.

The expansion will add 72k square feet to the existing 156k-square-foot facility. This expansion brings the total tribal investment into the Gun Lake Casino property to $415 mm.

“We have undergone a careful and detailed process to understand how to best serve the needs of our current guests — and enhanced dining, entertainment, and gaming amenities are a high priority,” said Sal Semola, president and chief operating officer for Gun Lake Casino. “These great new amenities will provide new experiences for our guests as part of our continued effort to make Gun Lake Casino the premier entertainment destination in western Michigan.”

Sports betting is the hottest casino gaming amenity in the country right now.

“The team will continue to analyze the market for new and exciting ways to entertain guests now and into the future,” the tribe said in its presser.

Online/mobile sportsbook?

While Michigan tribal gaming operators have stayed mum on the sports betting debate in Lansing (which has become very partisan), it doesn’t mean preparation hasn’t started.

As mentioned, the Gun Lake Tribe didn’t talk about a potential retail sportsbook in its expansion announcement, but it has already partnered with the online sports betting company Rush Street Interactive for “social” gaming, including sports wagering. RSI is an offshoot of Rush Street Gaming, a commercial casino operator. RSG doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar casino in Michigan.

In July, the tribe announced the launch of free-play sports betting under RSI’s Casino4Fun platform. Gamblers can buy virtual credits that are not redeemable for cash. The activity is legal because it’s not considered a real-money platform, though players can still lose their hard-earned money.

“As states move forward in legalizing sports betting and online gaming, our Casino4Fun product provides our brick-and-mortar casino partners with the marketing opportunity to both increase the engagement levels of current casino customers and convert the play-for-fun social players into play-for-real money patrons should online gaming become legalized in their state,” Richard Schwartz, president of Rush Street Interactive, said in a statement after the launch. “We look forward to working together to build Gun Lake Casino’s online database through dynamic marketing and promotions, which will increase visitation to its property while generating incremental revenues.”

A Gun Lake Casino online/mobile sportsbook would have to compete with the likes of MGM (BetMGM) and Penn National Gaming, which operate commercial casinos in Detroit.

MGM Grand Detroit recently opened a sportsbook without sports betting.

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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