The regulators announced Tuesday a definitive launch date for the online sports betting and casino markets in Michigan: Friday, January 22, 2021. The Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) approved the first nine of the Wolverine State’s 15 digital sportsbook operators go live at noon Friday. Additional approvals are expected in the coming days and weeks.

MGCB Executive Director Richard Kalm said, “The days between authorization and launch will give the sportsbook operators and platform providers further time for testing and adjustments ahead of the eventual launch.”

The development comes exactly two years and a month after then Gov. Ric Snyder vetoed a sports betting bill.

How Have We Reached Here?

The Michigan legislature and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer authorized online gambling and sports betting in December 2019, exactly a year after when her Republican rival and predecessor Rick Snyder turned down an iGaming and sports betting bill in December 2018.

Since the legalization of the industry, the regulators delved into devising rules and ways to monitor and license the digital platforms, though Michigan launched its retail-only industry last March. In-person sports betting went dark shortly after its launch due to the pandemic-led shutdowns in mid-March. Though the sports betting venues reopened later in the summer, they were closed again in November. Since December 22, they have reopened at reduced capacity. Yet now, as of Friday, nine of the 15 sportsbooks will be up and running just ahead of the NFL conference championships and Super Bowl season in February.

The minimum age for digital gambling and sports betting in Michigan is 21. The bettors do not have to be Michigan residents to place legal bets, but they must be physically present in the state’s jurisdiction when placing wagers through a smartphone app or computer.

Who Are the Lucky Nine?

The nine lucky operators to go live initially will include national leaders DraftKings and FanDuel, in addition to all three of the Detroit commercial casinos. Besides, six tribal casinos were also given the go-ahead to reap the benefits from the nation’s first industry launch in 2021.

That means BetMGM (MGM Grand) will join FanDuel (Motor City) and Penn National/Barstool (Greektown) with live digital apps tethered to Detroit commercial casinos. The Boston-based DraftKings (Bay Mills Community) is among those operators associated with tribal casinos. The other five are William Hill (Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians), Golden Nugget (Keweenaw Bay Indians), Twin Spires (Hannahville Indian Community), Rush Street Interactive’s BetRivers (Little River Band of Ottawa Indians), and WynnBET (Sault Ste. Marie Band of Chippewa Indians).

PointsBet and FOX Bet are among the two leading sportsbooks not joining the lucky nine in going live this Friday. Though PointsBet still expects to launch in the Wolverine State by late January, time seems to run out to realize the goal.

Others not launching Friday include:

  • Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe
  • Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, paired with Kambi
  • Gun Lake Indians, paired with Parx
  • Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Indians, paired with Scientific Games

 Michigan, First State to Launch Digitally in 2021

Kalm stated that the MGCB and state casinos will begin a new era this Friday with the launch of legalized online gaming and sports betting. He said the state residents love sports and eagerly await using mobile devices to place legal wagers. This is the first time both iGaming and digital sportsbooks will launch in a US jurisdiction simultaneously, with Barstool being the only sportsbook to not offer iGaming.

On Friday, Michigan will become the first US state to go live online in 2021 and the 13th US state with operational regulated mobile sports betting. The tax rate and the tribal payment rate for online sports betting is 8.4%. The tax and payment rates paid by the casinos for general online gambling – not including sports – will range between 20% and 28%, based on adjusted gross receipts.

With a population of around 10 million, the Wolverine State will be the third-largest US state with live regulated online gaming behind Illinois and Pennsylvania. The MGCB plans to continue authorizing operators and sports betting platforms must be linked to land-based casinos in the state. As many as 23 casinos are operated by twelve federally recognized Indian tribes, in addition to three commercial casinos in Detroit. Together, this means the potential for Michigan’s online gaming market is nearly uncapped and could soon rise to be one of the most formidable players in the US.

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