When Michigan legalized sports betting last year, it became the first state with a significant tribal presence to do so. The state has 23 tribal casinos and three commercial casinos. Under the new law, sports betting will be legal at all of the casinos, but there will be some subtle differences in how that will play out.
According to the Michigan Gaming Control Board, it will not be involved in retail sports betting at tribal casinos, and a spokesperson from the MGCB said it’s likely that on-site sports betting at Detroit’s three commercial casinos will be the first to launch. Why? Because most of the infrastructure is already in place and the MGCB already has applications available for potential suppliers/operators.
If Michigan takes a page out of either the Iowa or Indiana playbook, sports betting could be live in just a few months. Similar to Michigan, both of those states had extensive gaming infrastructure prior to legalizing sports betting, and both went from legal to live within four months.
Rules in process
The MGCB is currently developing its sports betting rules, but there is no firm timeline for when those will be complete. Should Michigan follow the path that other states have, it’s likely proposed rules will be published and then there will be a public-comment period (most are 30 days) and a public hearing, after which the MGCB could incorporate suggestions or make changes to the proposed rules before approving them. The most streamlined scenario for promulgating rules would likely be about 90 days.
Michigan’s commercial casinos can launch retail sportsbooks without concern for where tribal casinos are in the process – and this is a key difference between retail and mobile sports betting.
According to the new law, mobile sports betting cannot launch until at least one commercial and one tribal casino are licensed. So, for example, if by Mar. 1, the MGCB has rules in place and the Greektown Casino in Detroit is licensed and ready to launch mobile, it cannot do so until at least one tribal location gets its license. This requirement was likely put into the law to keep a level playing field and allow time for Governor Gretchen Whitmer to sign off on adding sports betting to the 1993 tribal-state compacts, which affect some of the tribes.
There are a dozen tribal casino groups in Michigan, which own and operate 23 casinos in total.
A pair of tribes this week made headlines by announcing online/mobile sports betting partnerships, one with The Stars Group, which is behind the FOX Bet platform, and the other with PointsBet.
Under the Michigan sports betting law, each casino operator in the state can have just one online/mobile sports wagering partner, also known as a skin.