Michigan Gaming Making Moves As Reopening Progresses

Michigan Gaming Making Moves As Reopening Progresses
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The Michigan gaming market is beginning to take shape after being shut down in mid-March.

Not only have tribal casinos in the Upper Peninsula of the state started to reopen or have made plans to reopen, the Michigan Gaming Control Board has begun accepting online gaming supplier licensing forms.

RELATED: More on Michigan gaming and online casinos

Although the state’s three casinos in Detroit, where in-person sports betting launched in early March but had to close soon after, remain shut down, the state is looking to have mobile sports betting in place in early 2021 — if not sooner.

“We’ve taken another step toward the launch of online gaming by beginning the licensing process,” Richard S. Kalm, MGCB executive director, said in a statement on the board’s website. “The MGCB encourages suppliers to file applications soon so we can conduct investigations and issue provisional licenses, which are allowed under state law."

The online gaming supplier licensing forms. and other information are available on a new MGCB website section, Internet Gaming and Fantasy Contests.

“We continue to make progress on rule promulgation for internet gaming and online sports betting. While we expect to launch these forms of betting by early 2021, we hope it can happen sooner.”

The Michigan gaming market — with mobile sports betting and online casino, in addition to the sportsbooks at the brick-and-mortar casinos in Detroit — could be one of the more expansive and lucrative markets in the U.S. It could be on par with New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Nevada with its array of options. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the gambling bills into law in late December.

“I was fortunate enough to place the first (sports) bet in the state in Michigan, but 48 hours later the NCAA and the world of sports totally cancelled,” state Rep. Brandt Iden told Gambling.com. “So we have retail operations when our casinos return. Mobile — as it relates to Internet games and as it relates to Internet sports — the Michigan Gaming Control Board is in the process of drafting the rules.

“That process should wrap up within the next two weeks or so at which point in time it goes through the rules promulgation process, (including) the (Michigan) house and senate.

“All that said, licensure, getting people up and running, we believe that by sometime close to the end of the year, a November-December timeline is reasonable for us to be fully up online with mobile sports, Internet gaming and Internet poker at our tribal casinos and our commercial casinos.”

Board Seeking Feedback on Rules

The board can issue provisional licenses for suppliers, but not platform providers — yet.

“As soon as we have a little bit more rule information, we can start the process for platform providers,” Mary Kay Bean, spokeswoman for the gaming control board, said Tuesday. “The rules are going to be a key factor in that. We’ve been working on draft rules and have been circulating them to stakeholders.”

Other forms will be added to the board’s website after it receives feedback on the proposed rules that were recently shared with stakeholders, including the Detroit commercial casinos and the federally recognized tribes that run casinos in Michigan.

“We’re starting to get comments back. We’ll have another round of informal comments before we will submit the rules,” Bean said. “This involves other agencies and a committee of the legislature. We will need a little bit more information before we can make the other applications available.”

Michigan Begins Reopening Process

Whitmer is beginning to loosen restrictions in some parts of the state, including the far north Upper Peninsula, where many of the tribal casinos are located. Whitmer signed an executive order Monday allowing for partial reopening of bars and restaurants at 50% capacity there beginning Friday. The Traverse City area can also start reopening under the order.

The Island Resort and Casino, a tribal casino run by the Hannahville Indian Community in Harris near the Wisconsin border, posted new guidelines on its website. The facility reopened May 16 reopening. It had been closed since March 21.

The temporary closure of five Upper Peninsula casinos run by the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians has been pushed back to June 1, according to Bridgemi.com. The tribe said lingering coronavirus health concerns and the state’s stay-at-home order being extended were reasons for the delay. They previously had planned to reopen on May 16.

Other tribal casinos in the state are also working on reopening. There has been no update on when the Detroit casinos can reopen.

Michigan Law Includes iGaming

Michigan would have iGaming options like New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Delaware currently have. States without online casino gaming and online poker sites have seen sharp declines in revenue with physical casinos closed.

But Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware saw record iGaming numbers in April.

  • On Monday, Pennsylvania reported that online casino gaming revenue, including slot machines, table games and poker, increased 73.2% in April ($43,067,881) from March ($24,864,830). The biggest jump came from online slot machines, with revenue more than doubling from $12,969,655 in March to $27,324,955 in April.
  • New Jersey had almost $80 million in online casino ($74.8 million) and poker revenue ($5.15 million) in April, according to figures released May 12 by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement. That is up 23.4% from $64.8 million in March and more than double the $36.6 million the state had last year in April.
  • Delaware's April iGaming report showed that revenue was $856,182, a 66% increase from March ($514,959) and more than triple the amount from April 2019 ($263,183), according to the Delaware Lottery, which oversees gaming in the state. Total iGaming handle in April was $28,496,616 — by far the state’s biggest month — with players winning $27,724,468, according to the Delaware Lottery figures.

Michigan is poised to join the online gaming party, maybe by the end of the year.

“We will expect it to be early next year, but there is a possibility of late this year if things go well,” Bean said.