Michigan Tribal Casino Launches Online Sportsbook — Sort Of

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A Michigan tribal casino isn’t waiting around for the state to legalize sports betting.

On Thursday, the Gun Lake Casino in Michigan, through a partnership with the Illinois-based Rush Street Interactive, announced the launch of a “social” sportsbook. The betting is available under Rush Street’s “Casino4Fun” social gambling platform, which is already offered at other Rush Street-affiliated casinos. Casino4Fun debuted in Pennsylvania cyberspace in 2015.

“The Gun Lake Casino4Fun site, which is powered by a proprietary internet gaming platform owned by RSI, allows visitors to the website to play a wide range of online slots, table games, live dealer games, and to place bets in a world-class sportsbook for free,” said a presser.

It’s not technically free. Upon sign-up, users get 250 in virtual credits to gamble on real-life sporting events. You can buy additional virtual credits, with packages ranging from $1.99 for 50 VCs to $149.99 for 15k VCs. The VCs don’t have cash value, so you can’t withdraw them into your bank account like you could with what is called a “real-money” sportsbook.

The interface is effectively identical to the real-money sportsbook offered by Rush Street’s Play SugarHouse online/mobile sportsbook, which is legally allowed to take bets in USD for those physically located within the states of Pennsylvania or New Jersey. That platform launched in PA in May.

While you can’t redeem VCs for real money, the Gun Lake Casino4Fun sportsbook does allow players to win dining comps or free slot play at the brick-and-mortar casino.

Limited availability

The Casino4Fun platform is for those 21+ with a Michigan residence. The registration requires that you input a Michigan address, though it doesn’t make sure you are actually in Michigan.

The tribal casino, located between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, sees it as a way to build its brand and marketing database ahead of Michigan’s legalization of real-money sports wagering. A bill is in the works.

“We are excited to offer our casino guests, and all Michigan residents who want to enjoy the online fun, an exciting experience away from our brick-and-mortar casino floor,” Sal Semola, President and COO for Gun Lake Casino, said in a statement. “We are pleased to partner with Rush Street Interactive to be the first tribal casino partner to deploy the proven Casino4Fun platform, and begin taking advantage of this dynamic marketing tool to expand the reach of the Gun Lake Casino brand in the digital world.”

Rush Street echoed the sentiment that the social sportsbook helps the tribal casino prepare for the Wolverine State potentially legalizing and regulating real-money books.

“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. “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.”

Problem gaming

While the Casino4Fun sportsbook doesn’t allow traditional deposits and withdrawals, it still provides some risk to patrons with regard to compulsive behavior.

The Gun Lake Casino4Fun portal has Terms of Service that state:

We want you to enjoy the Services in a responsible fashion and request that you follow these simple guidelines: 

  • Please try to establish limits for the Virtual Good payments you are willing to make over any period of time before you start playing.
  • Use of the Services is not recommended if you are recovering from a dependency or are under the influence of alcohol or other substances.
  • Use of the Services is not recommended if it might interfere with your daily responsibilities. 

Problem gaming messaging is much more robust in the Pennsylvania-facing Play SugarHouse’s ToS, which also provides resources for those needing help. The Gun Lake Casino’s social sportsbook does not provide links to problem gambling resources for patrons losing control.

Michigan gambling legislation

Should Michigan legalize sports betting, the Gun Lake Casino already has experience with a potential partner. The state has a dozen gaming tribes that would be allowed to offer sports betting in the event the legislature and the governor legalized it. The three commercial casinos in Detroit could also have statewide online/mobile betting.

Additionally, there’s an online casino bill on the table, which would extend to all casinos in the state. Rush Street offers online casino gambling in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Discussions in the Michigan Legislature will continue through the fall and possibly into December, as negotiations with the governor have stalled progress in recent months.

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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