Go-Live For Michigan Sports Betting, iGaming Operators Is Friday

Two years and a month after then-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed an iGaming and sports betting bill, operators are on the verge of going live with online sports betting and iGaming. The Michigan Gaming Control Board on Tuesday announced that it has approved nine operators to go live on Friday.

And Brandt Iden, the former Michigan representative who shepherded sports betting from concept to reality, can hardly wait.

“After four years of negotiations, countless bill drafts, hours of meetings with stakeholders, a veto, and a year of anticipation, the BIG day is finally here,” Iden told Sports Handle on Tuesday. “I recognize that many folks have been anxiously awaiting this day, and with the roll out on Friday, Michigan is going to be a market leader.”

The MGCB said that it has approved nine operators, including national juggernauts DraftKings and FanDuel, to go live. All three of the Detroit commercial casinos got the go-ahead, in addition to six tribal casinos. That means that FanDuel (Motor City) will be joined by BetMGM (MGM Grand) and Penn National/Barstool (Greektown) with live online apps tethered to downtown Detroit commercial casinos. DraftKings (Bay Mills Community) is among those partnered with tribal casinos. The other five are: Golden Nugget (Keweenaw Bay Indians), Rush Street Interactive’s BetRivers (Little River Band of Ottawa Indians), Twin Spires (Hannahville Indian Community), William Hill (Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians), and WynnBET (Saulte Ste. Marie Band of Chippewa Indians).

Michigan first to go live online in 2021

“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,” said Richard S. Kalm, MGCB executive director, via press release. “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.”

After that initial veto, Iden’s bill was signed into law by new Gov. Gretchen Whitmer just over a year ago. Retail sports betting went live in the state in early March 2020, just days ahead of shutdowns by the major professional sports leagues in the face of the COVID-19 crisis. Those sportsbooks have been sometimes open, sometimes closed, and sometimes running at limited capacity over the last 11 months. During that time, Colorado, Illinois, and Tennessee have rolled out mobile sports betting.

Michigan will be the first new U.S. state to go live online in 2021 and the 13th U.S. state to have live, legal online/mobile sports betting.

Iden, who is no longer a lawmaker, will likely be among the first to place a mobile wager in Michigan. An ardent Michigan State fan, he didn’t reveal what he’ll bet, but he’s previously visited neighboring states to test out platforms. His legislation was among the first in the U.S. to legalize sports betting and iGaming simultaneously.

“As my time in the legislature has come to an end, I truly believe that this legislation will be my legacy,” he said. “I have no doubt that 2021 is going to be a great year for Michigan gaming.”

With a population of 9.87 million, Michigan will be the third largest U.S. state with live, legal digital gaming behind Illinois and Pennsylvania.

The MGCB expects to continue authorizing operators this week and going forward. Sports betting platforms must be tied to brick-and-mortar casinos in the state. Twelve federally recognized Indian tribes operate 23 casinos and there are three commercial casinos in Detroit.

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