First Weekend Of Legal Michigan Online Gambling Sets Records

Written By Matt Schoch on January 25, 2021 - Last Updated on April 26, 2022
Michigan online gambling

Aaron Rodgers at home and any wager doubting the brilliance of Patrick Mahomes were not sure bets this weekend. But the surest bet in online gambling this weekend is that Michigan players were ready.

The Great Lakes State figured to be a monster for the sports betting and online casino industries. That proved prophetic for the opening weekend, which jumped to the top of the space after Friday’s launch.

While we won’t know just how big the opening was until January’s numbers are released by the Michigan Gaming Control Board on Feb. 10, all indications were a big betting weekend was had across the state.

Michigan set standard for wagers in its opening weekend

According to data from GeoComply, the geolocation tracking service used in Michigan and several other states, records were set during the online gambling launch. While Virginia sports betting launched one day before Michigan last week, it was Michigan that proved to be the powerhouse.

Virginia launched one operator, FanDuel, on Thursday with DraftKings eventually launching on Sunday. Virginia also only has legal online sports betting, while eight Michigan operators debuted online casinos alongside 10 sports betting platforms.

Michigan led legalized states in transactions, according to GeoComply. Michigan online gambling, combined with Virginia, tallied 7.5 million transactions in more than 400,000 accounts. The states combined for 25% of the overall US market this weekend, which set national records with more than 30 million geolocation transactions.

Despite glitches, BetMGM Michigan reports a strong launch

It wasn’t all smooth over the weekend though, especially for BetMGM.

The industry giant, which is looking to crack the first tier of platform providers, had tech issues with its app throughout Friday afternoon.

A spokesperson said high traffic caused the issues, and they were resolved in a short time. But users complained on Twitter about the app throughout the weekend. Accounts could not be accessed for a time on Monday morning. PlayMichigan reached out to BetMGM for updates on Monday.

Still, the numbers shared Friday evening with PlayMichigan were promising.

Elisa Richardson of BetMGM said customers had more than 200,000 successful logins and more than 2 million casino spins in the first seven hours.

She added that BetMGM exceeded the strongest launch to date, which was Nov. 1 in Tennessee, by three times in a matter of hours.

Barstool Fund donations deliver big numbers

The closest thing to definitive numbers from the weekend will likely come from Barstool Sportsbook. The bombastic brand launched just sports betting but is still expected to put up big numbers.

Parent company Penn National Gaming pledged to match first-time Michigan deposits that were also wagered over the first weekend to The Barstool Fund.

Founder Dave Portnoy and other Barstool personalities were at Penn’s Greektown Casino and other Michigan locales over the weekend for a viral marketing push, earning the brand headlines for pizza reviews and Portnoy’s attempt to settle the American vs. Lafayette coney dog debate once and for all.

According to PNG on Tuesday, more than $3.1 million will be matched from the drive.

BetRivers: Blackjack the big winner in online casino play

PlayMichigan reached out to all of the 10 operators in the state and will continue to report findings as they come in.

BetRivers offered some percentage breakdowns, including:

  • The NFC Championship Game was the most wagered on event in Michigan, followed by the AFC Championship Game.
  • The NFL conference championship games were responsible for 39% of the total weekend handle in the state.
  • Despite both Michigan and Michigan State’s basketball programs being paused due to COVID-19 issues, college basketball was the second-most wagered-on sport in Michigan.
  • The Detroit Pistons were the most wagered-on NBA team over the weekend, followed closely by Phoenix.
  • Blackjack was the most popular casino game, with table games being responsible for 39% of total casino handle.
  • 88 Fortunes was the most popular slot game, with 10% of the total slot handle.
  • Over 120 casino games were available on launch day, with more expected to be added as soon as Monday.

Richard Schwartz, president of Rush Street Interactive which operates BetRivers online gambling, called the weekend “a strong start in Michigan.”

“We are thrilled to see our site live in the booming Michigan market and this first weekend proved to us that there is a huge appetite for online casino and sports betting. We believe our new Michigan customers enjoyed the convenience of wagering on an exciting array of online casino games and sporting events, safely from their mobile devices and computers, on the fun and easy-to-use platform.”

DraftKings: AFC Championship was weekend’s biggest event handle

Unlike BetRivers, DraftKings reported that the nightcap, the AFC Championship, drew the most Michigan handle this weekend.

Here were the six biggest events of the weekend by handle in Michigan:

  • AFC Championship, Buffalo vs. Kansas City, Sunday
  • NFC Championship, Tampa Bay vs. Green Bay, Sunday
  • Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier, UFC, Saturday night
  • New York Knicks vs. Portland Trail Blazers, NBA, Sunday night
  • Denver Nuggets vs. Phoenix Suns, NBA, Saturday night

Plus. how about this for a notable winning bet? A $2 flyer on a four-leg parlay for the first basket scored in four NBA games scored as Orlando’s Nikola Vucevic, Cleveland’s Andre Drummond, New York’s R.J. Barrett and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo came through. The +173,200 bet paid out $3,465.

The Michigan home teams also received some significant futures love from DraftKings bettors:

  • The lowly Detroit Red Wings, with lofty +30000 odds, drew 12% of handle for Stanley Cup futures. That was third-most in the NHL with Vegas (+700) leading at 15%.
  • The Detroit Tigers drew second-most World Series future handle, drawing 20% at +10000. The San Diego Padres (+800) drew 29% of handle.
  • The Lakers drew 56% of NBA championship handle at +250.
  • Michigan drew the most men’s basketball NCAA Tournament championship handle with 64% at +1400. Michigan State was fourth-most with 6% at +4000.

TwinSpires: Packers were Michigan’s team this weekend

Michigan residents were betting heavy on the Packers, according to TwinSpires, though that might have something to do with that book in particular.

TwinSpires is partnered with the Hannahville Indian Community and the company’s presence at Island Resort Casino near Escanaba could be driving more Upper Peninsula fans to the app. The U.P. is largely Green Bay Packers country.

Spokesperson Andrew Brown said Green Bay was by far the best-supported team through the app, as nearly 90% of the money placed on the moneyline and more than 80% of the spread handle was on Rodgers and the Pack to top Tampa Bay.

Of course, TwinSpires is using Green Bay legend Brett Favre as its main marketing face, so that tracks as well.

Other Michigan stats from TwinSpires includes:

  • 61% of spread handle favored Kansas City over Buffalo, but 72% of moneyline handle was on the Bills.
  • Brown said many of the site’s bettors are using free bets to wager on the Los Angeles Lakers to win the NBA championship.
  • Blackjack was the top game played in TwinSpires casino, edging out Texas Hold’Em Plus from SG Digital.
  • Jimi Hendrix from NetEnt was the platform’s most popular online slot in the state.
Photo by Dreamstime stock
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Matt Schoch

A Michigan native, Matt has worked at newspapers in Michigan, Missouri and the Virgin Islands. A versatile sports reporter, Matt has covered sailing on the Great Lakes, cricket in the Caribbean, high school and pro playoffs, and the Olympics in Rio. He's also the former host of the Locked On Pistons Podcast and producer of a documentary on Emoni Bates. A former blackjack dealer, Matt has studied the industry from all sides.

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