The Detroit Lions are exceedingly unlikely to be playing in Super Bowl LV come February, but there is a very good chance bettors across the Wolverine State will be able to place wagers from their smartphones or laptops on the NFL Championship. That development on Thursday comes thanks to the Michigan Gaming Control Board, which awarded provisional licenses to 15 online gaming platform providers to become approved Michigan sportsbooks or online casino operators.
The approvals start the clock on what has widely been established to be a four-to-six week turnaround time from license to launch by the MCGB, which means online wagering in Michigan could take place as early as mid-January if everything goes smoothly. The Joint Committee on Legislative Rules waived through rules regarding online sports betting and casino gaming on Dec. 2, the final piece needed for some operators to fulfill requirements as part of their application process.
“The MGCB now can approve provisional licenses following the filing of the administrative rules for online gaming and sports betting Dec. 2 with the Office of the Great Seal,” said Richard S. Kalm, MGCB executive director, in a statement released by the regulatory body. “The platform providers still must meet other regulatory requirements before online gaming and sports betting can launch in Michigan. The launch date will depend on how quickly they can fulfill the requirements.”
Who’s in the club
Those on the approved list read as a who’s who of sports betting on the national scene: Betfair Interactive (FanDuel), Crown MI Gaming (DraftKings), Rush Street Interactive (BetRivers), BetMGM (Roar Digital), American Wagering (William Hill), PointsBet, and Penn Sports Interactive. Of those seven, FanDuel, BetMGM, and Penn Sports also are retail operators at Detroit’s three casinos — those have been closed since Nov. 18 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will remain closed until at least Dec. 20.
William Hill, DraftKings, BetRivers, and PointsBet have opted to enter Michigan through tribal gaming partners, with Michigan’s legal framework the first of its kind to incorporate tribes and state government regulatory oversight. Barstool Sports — which falls under the Penn Gaming umbrella — is poised to be a strong competitor with its retail ties to Greektown Casino in Detroit and founder Dave Portnoy’s ties to his alma mater, the University of Michigan.
Online sports betting should provide a boost to the operators of the city casinos, where they have generated slightly more than $120 million exclusively in retail handle since launching in mid-March days prior to the first COVID-19 related shuttering. The trio generated $25 million in handle in November despite operating at just 15% capacity prior to the most recent shutdown.
Big sports events ahead, pandemic permitting
Being up and running before Feb. 1 would give Michigan operators the opportunity to accept wagers for the two biggest sporting events on the U.S. calendar — the Super Bowl and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The three Detroit casinos opened days before the NCAA Tournament in March, only to have it all come undone days later by the pandemic.
There are also some regional players expanding their respective regional footprints for both sports betting and online gaming, including Golden Nugget Online Gaming, Parx Interactive, and Wynn Sports. All three have made names for themselves in both arenas in New Jersey.
Churchill Downs Interactive Gaming, doing business as Twin Spires, and TSG Interactive US Services (FOX Bet) were also approved, and GAN Nevada, Sports Information Services (Kambi), and NYX Digital Gaming round out the list.
All provisional license holders must still complete independent testing of their platforms and receive MCGB approval for internal controls and key employees. The regulatory agency, though, is allowing operators to make their mobile apps available for download prior to launch so bettors can register and create accounts, but no wagers can be placed without approval.
“The platform providers’ ability to meet the requirements of the laws and rules will determine which entities can be licensed for launch first,” Kalm said.