In what will disappoint some folks, Michigan gaming regulators have announced that they don’t plan to fast-track the implementation online/mobile sports wagering, which was legalized at the end of 2019.
A spokesperson for the Michigan Gaming Control Board told the Associated Press this week that it won’t be approving online/mobile sportsbooks until 2021. That is a slower pace than the likes of Iowa and neighboring Indiana and more in the ballpark of Pennsylvania’s timeline. Like Michigan, the Keystone State approved online casino along with internet sports wagering, which does add a lot more work to the regulatory process. Iowa and Indiana didn’t legalize online casinos.
Iowa and Indiana took just a handful of months in 2019 to launch online/mobile betting, while Pennsylvania took until May 2019 after the legislature authorized the sportsbooks in late 2017. The industry laments that there’s offshore online gambling already taking place by Michiganders, who as of yet have no legal channels.
Once regulators do give the green light to legal Michigan sportsbooks, taxes are expected to eventually generate a relatively modest $10 mm to $20 mm in new tax revenues on an annual basis.
Gamblers have spoken
Online/mobile is where the action is at for the industry. Nearly 70% of the legal sports betting handle in Indiana is already happening online. That figure is inching up toward 90% in New Jersey.
Michigan will likely miss out on the entire 2020-21 NFL and college football seasons, when a typical U.S. sportsbook sees about 35% of its total annual betting handle.
Still, there will be retail wagering this spring, expected to start ahead of the MLB baseball season. Fans of the Detroit Tigers will be able to bet on the team at minimum at the MGM Grand, which has a sportsbook space ready to go. The other two commercial Las Vegas-style casinos will likely have retail options available as soon as possible as well.
It is possible retail sports betting could be a go for March Madness, but that timeline remains up in the air.
Slow and steady
The MGCB indicated that there won’t be so-called “emergency” rules for sports betting and online casino gambling, which means that temporary regulations won’t be quickly put together so the industry can launch while the process to finalize them plays out. Michigan plans to have the regulatory structure firmly in place before any online gambling verticals, geo-fenced within its borders, will launch.
“We are at a very early stage of this [regulatory]process,” Mary Kay Bean, spokeswoman for the MGCB, told the Associated Press. “The agency must establish several sets of administrative rules, which pass through many levels of review. The timing of implementation depends not only on our agency but also on decisions other departments, agencies and the legislature make along the way … Our goal is to authorize onsite sports betting at the Detroit casinos this spring. Timing will depend on how quickly we receive applications, can approve the casinos’ internal controls and are able to issue required licenses.”
Michigan does have the task of including the state’s tribal casinos in online gambling, as authorized by the legislation Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed last month. The governor will have to revisit some tribal-state gaming compacts for the internet sports betting offering, according to the legislation.
The relatively slow pace of the MGCB hasn’t stopped some tribal groups from inking online gambling deals with some leading companies in the sector.
The news of the timeline for online gambling in Michigan follows a state report showing that the Detroit casinos won $1.45 billion from gamblers in 2019. The state boasted that it was a new record, despite the AGR being just 0.7% more than the previous high.