Online Gambling in


The situation in the state of Michigan is quite interesting. With land-based gambling and horse race betting permitted, one would think sports betting should be ready to go. But it isn't the case. The Wolverine State is still waiting on the Lawful Internet Gaming Act to be passed by the state senate.


Legal online gambling options: Sports Betting, Casino

Michigan Online Gambling

The subject of online sports betting in Michigan is at somewhat of a crossroads.

Originally, it was thought the decision taken by the Supreme Court to overturn the federal sports gaming law in May, would see Michigan in a position to expand its gambling scene, more or less, right away.

Or at least to coincide with the start of the football season in September.

After all, the Wolverine State has a long tradition within different forms of gambling already and sports betting would only become an extension of this?

Meanwhile, legalized and regulated online betting would not only create new revenue streams for the state but also provide customers protection against offshore gambling sites. It sounds like a no brainer on the face of it so why is it taking so long?

Where are we with online betting in Michigan?

Well, we’re currently waiting on H 4926, the Lawful Internet Gaming Act, to be passed by the state senate. This needs to be complete by the end of the year since state rules mean bills cannot be carried to odd years in Michigan. Odd maybe but rules are rules.

Once this is resolved, the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) can then move forwards with establishing a framework for online sports betting for the three commercial casinos and 24 tribal casinos in the state.

The vibe is a good one, especially with rep Brandt Iden’s midterm election win. Time is running out though and the process will have to begin from scratch if the clock passes them by.

Current Situation

Legal landscape as it stands

Land-based gambling – Permitted ✅

Horse race betting – Permitted ✅

Sports betting – Not permitted ❌

Online Gambling – Not permitted ❌

Lottery – Permitted ✅

*Minimum gambling age: 18 for lottery and horseracing; 21 for casinos

In the meantime, state rep Brandt Iden has his work cut out trying to ensure a prospective new online gambling and sports betting bill pleases everybody involved.

A number of issues need ironing out before the sports betting bill in Michigan is even considered even slightly ready to be passed:

· Tribal casinos

· “Integrity fee”

· The opposition of the NCAA

· Dual ownership of casino and sports team

Standing in the Way

Tribes yet to see the light

The Native American tribes which exist in Michigan and home to 23 casinos are sovereign nations. This means whatever bill is passed for the state doesn’t apply to their casinos, making for a more complicated and drawn out process than usual.

It appears the tribal casinos are content with the way things are and need some convincing as to the benefits of introducing a sportsbook in its casinos.

For example, the state’s largest tribal casino, the Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort, profits mostly from its 3,300 slot machines, a form of gambling that looks after itself.

Sports betting, with its greater overheads and constant monitoring, is deemed less profitable and more work. A well-run sports book yields around 5% on every dollar, and a slot machine can bring in almost twice as much at between 8% and 10%, in the same space and with lower overheads involved.

The fear is that sports betting will ultimately be too expensive to run. It must be said, they aren’t so much as kicking up a fuss at the proposal. But neither are they in full support of what’s been put forward. A compromise on the situation isn’t out of the window completely but before then, you sense a lot of convincing needs to take place.

Integrity/royalty fee

The issue of integrity in sport is also further delaying things. The major leagues have long opposed the idea of sports betting becoming widespread for fear of increasing the likelihood of games being rigged. They even pushed for the (now defunct) federal law in the first place let’s not forget.

Now though, perhaps with eyes on the dollars to be made, they have warmed to the idea!

But in return for the risks involved the NBA and the MLB are pushing for an “integrity fee” to be introduced as part of the law to be passed. This would see the leagues each receive a direct cut of the revenue made from the bookmakers in return for using their content to generate profit.

NCCA won’t be bullied

While pro leagues have clearly softened their stance, resistance still remains in the shape of the NCAA regarding online sports wagering. Their view is that while professionals may not be tempted by the lure of making money by throwing a game, the same can’t be said of college athletes who are relying on grants and scholarships to fund themselves.

This matter is very much up in the air but it’s not thought it’ll majorly influence the final bill however.

The possibility to forbid wagering on all college games would be an option, as is the case in New Jersey.

Double investment

In addition, there’s also a conflict of interest that needs addressing.

Marian Ilicth operates the MotorCity Casino but her family own MLB outfit Detroit Tigers and the Red Wings of the NHL.

Major League Baseball have so far permitted such a scenario to play out on the basis that Marian Ilitch has nothing to do with the running of the Tigers herself.

But it remains to be seen whether this set up will be allowed to continue when the sports betting legislation eventually comes into play.

The owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Dan Gilbert, would’ve been in the same predicament but he has recently completed the sale of Greektown Casino Hotel, and is seeking to sell off his six other casino interests, much to the relief of the lawmakers no doubt.

Why is Michigan pushing online sports betting?

Let’s not beat around the bush, the first is undoubtedly money. Funds are low in the state and the online gambling industry would provide a steady flow of income as well as help the state remain competitive.

Ongoing developments in nearby areas are threatening the future of Michigan’s land-based industry and so an expansion would be one way of combating this.

Secondly, we all know online betting takes place already (in the blackmarket).

Americans are known to wager approximately $150 billion annually via offshore accounts.

The majority of states, Michigan included, see no reason why the state itself can’t benefit from its patrons participating in a lucrative industry by cashing in on substantial tax revenue.

What’s more, having a fully regulated industry will provide greater protection for players who at present, run the risk of fraud or being conned out of significant sums by wagering with offshore betting sites.

Finally, interest in sports betting is as big as it has ever been and the increased use of mobile devices is only going to see this increase.

It’s a multi-billion-dollar industry that seems to have no limits. Who wouldn’t want a piece of this money-making pie?

The provisions of the draft bill

Of course, all is subject to change if and when then the bill is passed. But it’s good to know what many lay in wait, for both casino and players alike.

Licenses will be restricted to land-based casinos who’ll provide the means for online betting companies to operate in the state.

New license holders will need to pay a $200,000 licensing fee to operate within the state and a $100,000 with each year that passes.

This is loose change compared to the amount of $5 million originally put forward, and the startling $10million fee being put before prospective new licensees in Pennsylvania.

It’s hard to discuss the flexibility of where you can and can’t bet from without the final bill before us. But it’s believed there is no clause that says players must be on the premises of a land-based casino to wager. It’s likely Michigan will follow in the footsteps of Pennsylvania in granting complete freedom to bettors.

Will it happen in Motor City?

The desire to add online betting to the gambling options available in Michigan is clearly there and much of the groundwork appears to be in place to force through proceedings. But, still, so much needs to be resolved.

How to deal with the issue surrounding the tribal casinos appears the biggest hurdle to overcome.

Of course, first the process hinges on the state senate. If the Lawful Internet Gaming Act is passed before the end of the year then all systems go.

Do Penn National know something we don’t?

Perhaps the investment of the Greektown Casino-Hotel by Penn National is a strong indicator that the enactment of the law may be indeed be around the corner. They’ve acquired the right to all casino activity at the venue for $300 million, whilst adding another piece to their portfolio.

Penn National is slowly building a healthy quota with a strong presence in Mississippi and casinos ready to roll out sports betting in West Virginia and Pennsylvania when they go live.

The fact they now have a presence in Michigan also will only help drive the push for the law to be passed sooner rather than later.

Plenty of Sporting Interest

Michigan is home to four major league professional teams:

Detroit Tigers are a MLB member competing in the central division with four World Titles to their name, the last of which came in 1984.

They’ve had recent success in the shape of the four successive Central division titles won between 2011 and 2014.

Ford Field is home to the Detroit Lions, who play in the North division of the National Football Conference.

Success in the modern era has been hard to come by but the team stands on a solid history and can always rely on a significant home crowd to see them over the line.

Detroit Red Wings are down in history as one of the most successful NHL teams.

Eleven Stanley Cups and 19 division championships speaks for itself. Fans are known to bellow out Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” at home at the Little Caesars Arena and are particularly in-sync for the line ‘Born and raised in South Detroit’.

Detroit Pistons also call the Little Caesars Arena, home.

The Pistons compete in the Eastern Conference of the NBA and have won nine division titles since being founded in 1941. Center Andre Drummond is the cornerstone of the current team looking destined for a top four finish this season.

Long tradition of gambling in Michigan

Michigan has long held a physical gambling industry with three commercial casinos, twenty-three tribal casinos and four horseracing tracks, while it has run a state lottery since 1972.

Regardless of how long it takes to eventually bring sports betting to Michigan, the strong gambling tradition already present in MotorCity suggests it will be welcomed with open arms when it does arrive.