Online gaming, sports betting in Michigan to launch Friday

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News

Beginning Friday, Michiganians will be able to legally place sports wagers and gamble online, capping a year of anticipation and impatience among fans and operators alike.

The Michigan Gaming Control Board said Tuesday it had authorized nine operators to launch online sports betting, or both online gaming and sports betting, effective at noon Friday. The move comes as the four remaining NFL teams vie this weekend for berth in Super Bowl LV.

“The Michigan Gaming Control Board and the state’s commercial and tribal casinos will begin a new era Jan. 22 with the launch of regulated online gaming and sports betting,” Richard Kalm, MGCB executive director, said in a statement.

Subscribers: Online gambling, sports betting going online in Michigan: Everything you need to know

“Michigan residents love sports and, judging by inquiries we’ve received, eagerly anticipate using mobile devices to place bets through the commercial and tribal casinos. Online gaming and sports betting will provide the casinos with new ways to engage with customers while the state and local communities will benefit from taxes and payments on wagering revenue.”

Actor Jamie Foxx is featured in a giant outdoor advertisement  for BetMGM, 'The King of Sportsbooks' overlooking Campus Martius Park in downtown Detroit on Wednesday, January  13, 2021.

The operators that are authorized to launch Friday, and their associated platform providers, are:

  • Bay Mills Indian Community, DraftKings
  • Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, William Hill
  • Greektown Casino, Penn Sports Interactive/Barstool Sportsbook
  • Hannahville Indian Community, TwinSpires
  • Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Golden Nugget Online Gaming
  • Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, Rush Street
  • MGM Grand Detroit, BetMGM/Roar Digital
  • MotorCity Casino, FanDuel
  • Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, Wynn

All of the operators except one will launch both online gaming and sports betting. Greektown initially will launch only internet sports betting.

In a statement, Penn National Gaming, Inc., which owns Greektown, said it plans to launch its Barstool Sportsbook mobile app on iOS, Android and desktop at noon Friday. Its online casino games "will follow shortly thereafter, subject to final regulatory approvals." Greektown opened a retail sportsbook in December.

"We have been incredibly pleased with the success of the mobile app since launching in Pennsylvania in September," Jay Snowden, CEO of Penn National, said in a statement. "Our customers have thoroughly enjoyed engaging with Dave Portnoy, Dan ‘Big Cat’ Katz and other Barstool fan favorites, and we expect more of the same in Michigan."

From noon Friday to 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Michigan residents can make their first-time deposit on the Barstool Sportsbook mobile app and The Barstool Fund will match it with a donation, provided participants wager an equal amount or more than their first-time deposit during the weekend.

The fundraiser will support small businesses in the state that have been affected by the pandemic. The casino will match with a donation to the fund, the first-time rated wagers of participants who visit the the retail Barstool Sportsbook at Greektown.

Big screen televisions and comfy seating areas are seen at the BetMGM Lounge located inside the MGM Grand Casino in Detroit on Wednesday,  March 11, 2020 the first day for sports betting at the Detroit casinos.

“We are excited to bring BetMGM’s market-leading sports betting and iGaming app to Michigan this Friday," David Tsai, president of the Midwest Group for MGM Resorts, said in a statement. "The online experience will be a complementary extension of MGM Grand Detroit’s best-in-Michigan BetMGM Sportsbook and lounge, giving sports fans and bettors different opportunities to get in on the action.”

In a statement, MotorCity Casino Hotel President Bruce Dall noted that the casino opened its on-site FanDuel Sportsbook in early 2020 and said the casino is "thrilled to build on this collaboration with a fully integrated, real money online gaming experience for residents and visitors to the state of Michigan."

FanDuel's sportsbook and casinos apps are available for iOS and Android. 

"FanDuel administers all core services affecting betting for the Sportsbook and administers its Sportsbook app," Dall said. "As such, guests can place bets on a number of games, including the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings."

MGCB said it expects to authorize additional operators and platform providers "in the coming days and weeks as agency staff review other submissions to ensure they meet the state’s regulatory requirement."

The launch comes amid a challenging time for casinos — which have been shut down or operating on strict capacity limits since the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic — as well as the communities in which they operate and pay taxes. The new revenue streams provided by online gambling and sports betting could be a lifeline as casinos contend with significantly reduced activity.

Detroit's casinos — MGM Grand, MotorCity and Greektown — reported nearly $639 million in aggregate revenue during 2020, down 57% from a record of nearly $1.5 billion in 2019, according to MGCB. They paid $73.8 million in wagering taxes and development agreement payments to the city in 2020, down from $184.2 million paid in 2019.

Online sports betting will be taxed at a rate of 8.4%. The rate for online gaming ranges from about 20% to 28%, according to MGCB.

For the three Detroit casinos, sports betting and internet gaming tax revenues will be allocated as follows: 30% to the city, 5% or up to $3 million per year from each source to the Michigan Agriculture Equine Industry Development Fund, and 65% to the state's Internet Sports Betting Fund or Internet Gaming Fund.

For the state's 24 tribal casinos, 90% of online sports betting payments will be allocated to the Internet Sports Betting Fund while 10% will be allocated to the Michigan Strategic Fund. Twenty percent of internet gaming payments will go to local jurisdiction governing bodies, 70% will go to the state's Internet Gaming Fund, and 10% will go to the Michigan Strategic Fund.

Dollars from the state's Internet Sports Betting Fund and Internet Gaming Fund flow to MGCB, a Compulsive Gaming Prevention Fund, the First Responder Presumed Coverage Fund and the State School Aid Fund.

The two forms of gambling are expected to generate millions of dollars of new annual revenue as the online gambling market expands globally.

Kevin Zatorski of Warren uses a kiosk for sports betting at the MGM Grand Casino in Detroit on Thursday, March 11, 2020.

The launch — which comes just in time for the NFL conference championships this weekend and the Super Bowl on Feb. 7 — has generated huge excitement among fans who have been impatient to start placing wagers ever since the end of 2019, when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a law making online gaming and sports betting legal in the state.

"I'm very excited for what it means for the state, not only in terms of revenue and tax receipts and all the benefits to the government entities, but also from a consumer perspective, (I'm) super excited," said Jeff Lutz, 36, of Bloomfield Hills.

Lutz said he has traveled regularly to Las Vegas with friends for March Madness, where he experienced the buzz and excitement of sports betting. With the pandemic ongoing, online sports betting provides a safe way to maintain the excitement as well as connections with friends.

"This is a nice little way of replicating that experience," he said. "This is going to be a game-changer for this area. We're at the first steps of a mountain of new conversations, new dialogue, new ways of discussing sports."

In the run-up to MGCB's authorization, as the agency worked its way through a lengthy rule-making process, platform providers blitzed the state with ads and promotions; many are offering credits to new customers. 

Michigan's law allows only the state's licensed casinos to offer the two forms of gambling. Platform providers can pair up with the casinos.

DraftKings Inc,, which has partnered with Bay Mills Resort & Casino in the Upper Peninsula, said in a statement that it will launch its mobile Sportsbook and Casino app Friday.

“We look forward to officially launching our partnership with DraftKings and bringing a new aspect of gaming entertainment to our fellow Michiganders,” Bryan Newland, Indian Community Chairman, Bay Mills, said in a statement. “Online gaming and sports betting will help our tribe and our casino move solidly into the future.”

For the launch, the sports entertainment and gaming company is offering several promotions to new customers in Michigan, including two "Double Your Money" opportunities. DraftKings Sportsbook, DraftKings Casino and the DraftKings daily fantasy products are available via iOS and Android.

The state permitted on-site sports betting to launch in March 2020, just as the pandemic took hold and led to cancellations of sports game and closures of casinos. Last year, retail sports betting at the Detroit casinos brought in just under $845,000 for the city and more than $690,000 for the state, according to MGCB.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services maintains a 24-hour, toll-free gambling-problem helpline at 1-800-270-7117. You must be 21 years or older to participate in online gaming or sports betting. A list of FAQs is available on MGCB's website.

Twitter: @JGrzelewski