The Michigan Gaming Control Board looks to be leaving no stone unturned amid a recent flurry of moves to accelerate online gaming availability that could potentially help lessen a huge gap in projected revenue in the Wolverine State as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Friday’s announcement that the MCGB began accepting online gaming supplier license forms as part of the Michigan sports betting and online casino industry was the latest effort to help address an expected shortfall of $3.2 billion this year according to state finance officials. According to the state’s Budget Office, Michigan has $1.2 billion in its Rainy Day Fund.
Earlier this month, the state regulatory agency announced it will permit online and mobile betting on horse racing via Advance Deposit Wagering (ADW) via executive order by MGCB Director Richard Kalm.
“The MGCB’s Enterprise Licensing and Investigations sections will work cooperatively to review applications and conduct background investigations for online gaming applicants,” MGCB Communications Specialist Mary Kay Bean said in a statement to Sports Handle. “The agency has encouraged suppliers who will support the operators and platform providers to apply as soon as they can so we can conduct reviews and prepare to issue provisional licenses.”
The global pandemic has closed casinos statewide, with the MGM Grand Detroit, MotorCity Casino, and Greektown Casino all closed since March 16. That has contributed to a 39.2% drop in revenue compared to 2019 and $15.6 million less in taxes over the first four months of the year for the state of Michigan and $23 million less in tax revenue for the city of Detroit.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s most recent executive order kept the three casinos closed until May 28. On Monday, Whitmer announced plans for businesses in some of the state’s counties to reopen Friday, but Wayne County where Detroit is located was not among those listed.
The race to get Detroit online
Despite the push by the MGCB, it would appear having online and mobile betting available before the end of the year is optimistic, even if “emergency rules” are used to help speed up the process. Given Detroit’s three casinos generated $302 million in tax revenues combined ($118 million for Michigan, $184 million for Detroit) in 2019, getting any or all of them operational for mobile betting in any form — casino or sports betting — would be welcomed.
Kay noted that the board expects “the gaming to begin in early 2021 but, if all goes well, it could happen late this year.”
MGM Grand Detroit would have BetMGM as its online platform, while FanDuel would operate both the retail and online sportsbooks for MotorCity Casino. Penn National has partnered with Greektown Casino and is expected to be branded as a Barstool sportsbook.
“The agency sent draft online gaming rules for sports and casino-style betting to stakeholders for their review and feedback,” Kay noted as part of the statement. “We will consider their written feedback and intend to ask them to provide input on any changes in the draft rules based on the feedback we’ve received. The stakeholders also will have an opportunity later this year to comment on the rules during the public hearing and comment period.”
Should the three Detroit casinos remain closed throughout the month of May as expected, there would be a projected 51.6% drop in adjusted gross revenues compared to 2019 that would result in an estimated $25.8 million less in tax revenue for the state and $37.9 million less for the city through May 31 versus last year.