TwinSpires, we hardly knew ye.
The online sportsbook and casino — both of which are partnered with the Hannahville Indian Community — will be ceasing operations sometime in the next few months. This according to Bill Carstanjen, the CEO of Churchill Downs Inc., who made the announcement in late February during the company’s quarterly earnings call.
“We had high hopes for the potential to build a profitable business in this space,” he said. “We have profitable retail sportsbooks in four of our casinos. However, the online sports betting and online casino space is highly competitive, with an ever-increasing number of participants that the states have licensed.”
Known formerly as BetAmerica, the sportsbook never really took off in Michigan despite launching on day one.
— US Bets (@US_Bets) March 4, 2022
In fact, for 2021, its total handle of only $20.6 million topped one other sportsbook that was in operation from the jump: Golden Nugget, with its $10.2 million.
But while Golden Nugget managed to eke out a $143,827 sports betting profit (after promotions were accounted for), TwinSpires was on the ugly end of $886,291.
Add it all up — along with subpar performances in the six other states where it operates — and the curtain will be falling on the operation at some point in the near-term. In short: Don’t make any NFL futures bets at TwinSpires.
But as one door closes, etc. and so on, another one may open. In short: Who will the Hannahville tribe and their Island Casino decide to partner with, if anyone, with their skin?
By law, there are allowed to be 15 online sportsbooks in Michigan. Including TwinSpires, there are currently 14. Soaring Eagle — which will be launching sometime in 2022 with its own branded sportsbook — is the 15th.
Firekeepers and Four Winds have also gone it alone, setting up their own online homes for sports betting. Might Hannahville do the same? It’s certainly possible, though calls to both the tribe and the casino went unreturned as of press time.
But this much is true: Whatever Hannahville decides, it’s not expected to be a snap-your-fingers-and-it-happens kind of deal.
In fact, if the tribe wants to stay in the sportsbook business …
“The Hannahville tribe must sign an agreement with another platform provider,” said Mary Kay Bean, the spokesperson for the Michigan Gaming Control Board. “The platform provider must complete the MGCB’s supplier licensing requirements, which include business licensing and occupational licensing. The provider also must meet technical requirements for communications, data logging, geofencing, server and equipment location, and game submissions. They also must submit internal control standards for the agency’s review. The provider cannot be approved for launch until all requirements are met.”
While Bean couldn’t provide a firm “how long” to the above, it’s clear Rome will not be built in a day.
Of course, if Hannahville doesn’t go it alone, there is no shortage of potential partners who have already laid claim to sportsbooks in other states. Here’s a quick glance at some potential contenders.
Three with experience
Betway (live in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Iowa, and Colorado), Unibet (live in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Virginia, Arizona, and Iowa) and Bally Bet (live in Colorado, Iowa, Arizona, Indiana, and Virginia) all have the experience getting up and running in numerous states. And with Michigan’s relatively low tax rates, all three should be very interested in expanding into the Wolverine State.
Bet365 is a huge worldwide brand, but is currently only available in the U.S. in New Jersey. SuperBook is a monster in the American sports betting industry, but is currently only available online in New Jersey, Nevada, and Colorado. Again, it would be of zero surprise if either of these books came to Michigan.
Smaller books, like Tipico, fall in here. But there are also true longshots, like Fanatics, which is basically rumored to be in the running for every single sportsbook license minted.
Time will tell which sportsbook will replace TwinSpires, and there will undoubtedly be countless rumors swirling around. Stay tuned …