In an online gaming equivalent of a land rush, 10 licensed operators launched mobile sports betting and/or iGaming apps Friday in Michigan. It’s a move that should make the Midwestern state one of the country’s top gaming states in quick fashion.
The apps were allowed to start taking bets at noon. State Sen. Curtis Hertel, D-East Lansing, placed the ceremonial first bet. He picked his hometown Michigan State Spartans to win this year’s NCAA men’s basketball championship at DraftKings.
Richard S. Kalm, executive director for the Michigan Gaming Control Board, said in a statement Friday that Hertel was a key player in legalizing online gaming in the state.
“His leadership on the 2019 bills made today’s announcement possible, and his work on the recently signed legislation permitting multi-jurisdictional poker will allow poker players to compete against players in other states in the future,” Kalm said. “It’s a fitting tribute to have Sen. Hertel launch this new era of gaming.”
Besides DraftKings, others that flipped the switch in Michigan Friday were William Hill, Barstool Sportsbook, TwinSpires, Golden Nugget, Rush Street Interactive, BetMGM, FanDuel, Wynn, and PointsBet.
With a population of roughly 10 million people, Michigan becomes the third-largest state to legalize online gaming. Only Pennsylvania and Illinois are larger.
Given the scale of the launch, the state should be able to match Illinois’ fast start and position itself as a top five state, along with Nevada and New Jersey.
Michigan is the second state in recent months to allow all licensees to launch simultaneously, joining Tennessee. The Volunteer State let its first four sports betting operations go live on Nov. 1.
The move may produce interesting results once handle and revenue reports become available. In several states with competitive online landscapes, the current market leader typically has been one of the first to market.
To compete for the sports betting dollar, several operators offered sign-up bonuses and other specials. For example, for the remainder of January, PointsBet is offering Michigan customers a chance to double their net winnings, up to $100, in free bets. Simultaneously, net losses will also be refunded up to $100.
Meanwhile, TwinSpires, the newly rebranded sportsbook from Churchill Downs, is offering up to $1,000 in bonus sports bets over a seven-day period. In addition, on the iGaming side, players can play risk-free for up to $500 during their first 24 hours.
Besides the simultaneous rollout, another unique part of Michigan’s online gaming initiative is the partnerships the state has established with the tribal casinos.
The only state-licensed casinos are the three located in Detroit. Retail sports betting began in the state in March, just before the COVID-19 pandemic closed the state-licensed casinos until August.
Presently, a dozen federally recognized tribes reside in the state, MGCB spokesperson Mary Kay Bean said in an email Friday. Each applied for state licenses to offer online gaming.
Michigan is the first US state to license both commercial and tribal casinos for online wagering and sports betting, meaning every casino operator and more communities across the state can share in the benefits,” Bean told Casino.org. “The launch of online gaming and sports betting has been a great cooperative effort by all parties involved.”
The state, however, does not regulate the tribes’ brick-and-mortar sportsbooks.