Some big names were part of Michigan’s online sports betting and iGaming launch Friday at noon, as lawmaker Sen. Curtis Hertel made a ceremonial first bet at noon on the DraftKings Sportsbook on Michigan State basketball, while at Rush Street Interactive’s BetRivers app, longtime Detroit Pistons announcer John Mason wagered on Tampa Bay +3.5 (-110) against the Packers in this Sunday’s NFC Championship game. According to BetRivers, Mason made the bet because Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady is a Michigan alum.
Hertel, along with Brandt Iden, his former Michigan House counterpart, were the architects of the law that allowed for today’s launch.
“Michigan now can offer legal, regulated online gaming and sports betting to residents and visitors,” said Richard S. Kalm, MGCB executive director, via a Michigan Gaming Control Board press release. “It’s an exciting and much-anticipated day and will bring revenue to support education, tribal communities and the city of Detroit.”
Platforms tethered to all three Detroit commercial casinos were among the 10 that went live, as well as seven platforms linked to tribal casinos throughout Michigan.
Plenty of specials, promos up for grabs
Most operators were offering glitzy specials seen in other states, large deposit matches and “risk-free bets” up to $1,000. Barstool Sports will match every dollar in initial deposits with a donation to its Barstool Fund, while FanDuel is also offering a big Pistons odds boost: Pistons to score 10 points in Q1 +100 (boosted from -100000). The max bet is $50.
Prior to the official launches, Michigan’s Attorney General Dana Nessel in a statement Thursday urged prospective customers to carefully review the fine print on sportsbook and iGaming promos, to set expectations and avoid any misunderstandings. Good advice that users in any state would do well to heed.
The following platforms were approved to go live Friday afternoon, with their brick-and-mortar casino partner in parentheses.
- Barstool/Penn National (Greektown)
- BetAmerica/TwinSpires (Island
- BetMGM (MGM Grand)
- BetRivers (Little River Casino and Resort)
- FanDuel Sportsbook (MotorCity)
- DraftKings (Bay Mills Indian Community)
- Golden Nugget (Ojibwa)
- PointsBet (Northern Waters)
- William Hill (Turtle Creek)
- WynnBet (Kewadin)
Since Michigan lawmakers legalized sports betting in December 2019, there has been plenty of anticipation among both lawmakers and bettors. Former lawmaker Iden, who is now with risk-management and odds supplier Sportradar, was insistent not only that sports betting and iGaming be legalized in a single shot, but he was also able to bring Michigan’s tribes to the table and craft the first law in the U.S. under which the tribes are taxed and regulated by a state.
One minute left to go live in Michigan online sports betting!!! God bless!!!
— Dr. AK (@docvegas42) January 22, 2021
It took two tries to legalize
But Iden and Hertel needed two tries at legalizing sports betting and iGaming.
“The second crack at the legislation made the legislation better,” Iden said during an iGB webinar on Thursday. “Speaking as a guy who got a bill vetoed … I learned my lesson the hard way. The first time, I went to my colleagues first, and then took it to the governor, and he said, ‘You didn’t talk to me’ … so I had to go back to the beginning.”
Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed Iden’s 2018 bill before his successor, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, signed the new legislation in December 2019.
“There’s a lot of excitement about Michigan out there,” Iden said. “But what’s really cool out there, is we sort of have this culmination of the tribes, the commercial casinos, a launch date. … We’re very excited about this.”
Said BetMGM CEO Adam Greenblatt in a press release Friday morning: “Reaction to the opening of MGM Grand Detroit’s BetMGM Sportsbook and Lounge has been incredible. We’re thrilled to complement our retail offering with the launch of the BetMGM mobile app in Michigan.”
Interest was so high that BetMGM’s crashed in the early going, according to one Twitter user.
It’s noon in Michigan, sports betting is legal, and I think the BetMGM app just crashed. pic.twitter.com/T74VUe2x4C
— Maxwell White (@MaxWhiteWXYZ) January 22, 2021
According to an MGM spokesperson, the app was back up and running within a few hours, “The BetMGM Michigan app experienced high traffic at launch, resulting in some tech issues,” he said. “The issues have now been resolved.”
Here’s a look at some other reactions on social media
Sports betting is live in Michigan. pic.twitter.com/QRyQ1wLC7y
— D-Town Sports (@DetSportsSZN) January 22, 2021
Online sports betting goes live @ 12p in Michigan and I’m super geeked 🙌🏾😩
— “Securi-Tee” (@SwaggyTeee) January 22, 2021
— @CoachesTalk (@CoachesTalk) January 22, 2021
It's official: Online gaming and sports betting is live. Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., D-East Lansing, placed the ceremonial first wager, per the Michigan Gaming Control Board
— Lauren Gibbons (@LaurenMGibbons) January 22, 2021
Five more still need approval
Not all of Michigan’s sportsbooks and iGaming platforms were green-lighted to go live on Friday. Gun Lake Casino (Parx), Odawa Casino Resort (FoxBet), Firekeepers Casino Hotel (SG Digital), Four Winds (Kambi), and Soaring Eagles Casino Resort (partner TBA) are all still in the application process.
“They have to ensure us they can do it, which is identity protection, cyber security, geolocation,’ MGCB’s Kalm told WoodTV. “They have to be able to show us where the bet is coming from.”
Speaking of the two western Michigan casinos, Gun Lake and Firekeepers, Kalm said the MGCB is working with both, and at least one could launch soon.
Most of the 10 platforms that launched have a national presence and are live in other states.