Michigan sports fans got teased into thinking they could make NCAA Tournament bets in March. Sports betting opened right before March Madness kicked into high gear.
However, the coronavirus pandemic canceled the tournament, and the newly opened Detroit sportsbooks were put on ice for nearly five months.
But with Big Ten football finally inching toward its debut, college sports betting is basically about to make its official debut in the Great Lakes State.
However, some of the very same prop bets that you can make for NFL games are not yet available for college football at Detroit casinos. They also won’t be available when online sports betting launches in November.
The state’s tribal casinos are not beholden to these rules for their retail sportsbooks. Their online operations must follow Michigan Gaming Control Board rules upon launch.
For now, prop betting in college sports is off the board. But Michigan officials could add individual prop bets to the wagering menu — if asked.
College prop betting and integrity issues
While many states draft their own sports gambling measures, college sports have been a variable in the process.
Bettors in New Jersey, for instance, can’t place wagers on in-state college sports teams. That means, when the Big Ten kicks off on Oct. 24, there will be no Rutgers bets made in the Garden State.
The athletic directors of 13 Division I universities in Ohio have asked for similar standards in the Buckeye State as the state legislature continues debate on the issue.
Of course, that would leave millions of big-time Buckeyes football fans out in the cold.
Michigan lawmakers made a subtle and similar nod to these issues, citing the amateur status of the student-athletes.
Along with individual prop bets, in-game player props are also off the table as are individual futures bets such as which player will win the Heisman Trophy.
State Rep. Michael Webber told PlayMichigan at March’s sports betting launch that it could be possible for an athlete to manipulate an individual prop and fix a bet.
Michigan sportsbooks can offer team-based prop bets
While individual prop bets are not yet available, operators can offer team-based props for college football and the like.
That means a book can offer an over/under on how many rushing yards Michigan will accumulate in a game. Or how many sacks Michigan State will compile as a team?
Passing yards, in particular, could create an interesting workaround for sportsbooks.
Say sportsbooks post how many passing yards Ohio State will tally in the annual beatdown of rival Michigan.
That’s something akin to a player prop for Buckeyes star quarterback Justin Fields.
He’ll be the one posting most, if not all, the passing yards for OSU. That is, unless Fields gets injured or the score is so lopsided that coach Ryan Day pulls his star.
College player props not forbidden, just on hold
It’s important to note that college player props are not illegal in Michigan. They’re just not approved yet.
The Lawful Sports Betting Act gives leeway to the MGCB for determining what constitutes an accepted wager. One exception to that is pari-mutuel horse racing, which is explicitly prohibited at Detroit sportsbooks.
That was a nod to the state’s horse racing industry and an effort to boost the dying sport.
During the pandemic shutdown, MGCB staff drafted rules for online gambling, including the Internet Sports Betting Rules. The board submitted the rules to the legislature.
Draft rules provide a pathway for college sports prop bets
The rules establish a process for operators and platforms to request board approval for event categories.
So, an entity could petition the board to consider individual college props, even of the in-game variety. For example, sportsbooks such as DraftKings or FanDuel could ask the MGCB about posting odds on Fields’ total passing yards during a game.
The MGCB would then have the final say on whether the props are permitted.
Basically, the sports betting rules establish criteria for accepting events and wagers, such as if the outcome can be documented and verified.
Board spokesperson Mary Kay Bean, in an email to PlayMichigan, wrote the MGCB will evaluate any request for approval of proposition or in-game betting on college events “to determine whether it meets the requirement of the act and rules and is consistent with the public policy of the state.”