5 Key First-Year Moments In Michigan Online Gambling Set Table For Year 2

Written By Drew Ellis on January 18, 2022
Michigan Online Gambling One Year Anniversary Sports Betting

It’s hard to believe, but we are approaching the 1-year anniversary of online sportsbooks and online casinos in Michigan.

The date was Jan. 22, 2021 when a major step was taken in Michigan’s sports betting and casino industry. Saturday makes a year since 10 apps went live in Michigan.

Over the last 12 months we have seen a lot happen, paving the way for exciting things to come in the second 12 months.

Here’s a look at five marquee moments during the first year of the online product, and what to look forward to in its next stages.

Jan. 22, 2021 – Online sportsbooks & casinos launch

While the first physical sportsbooks launched in Detroit on March 11, 2020, it would be nearly a year later that online and mobile access was granted.

Ten online sportsbooks and eight online casinos took part in the initial launch ahead of a big sports weekend. Included in the opening weekend was the AFC/NFC Championships and Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier in the UFC.

The launch was a success from the beginning, as Michigan combined with launching Virginia to account for 7.5 million online transactions. Those transactions came from more than 400,000 accounts. Players took advantage of numerous new-user account bonuses, many signing up for a handful of operators.

It was only just the beginning of a successful year.

Looking ahead: Michigan now has 14 active online sportsbooks to utilize. A 15th is on the way with Soaring Eagle Casino set to launch Ascend Sportsbook on-site in the near future and Eagle Casino & Sports online. The same goes for online casinos, with 14 currently active and Soaring Eagle next to join the mix.

Jan. 29, 2021 – PokerStars MI launches

The next big step in the online gambling industry was online poker launching on Jan. 29.

PokerStars MI was the first site to launch in Michigan, one week after online casinos and sportsbooks launched.

Michigan became the fifth state to allow real money poker games. Michigan joined Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In its first week, the Great Lakes State led the nation with nearly 1,100 seats filled on PokerStars.

BetMGM Poker would be next to follow, launching on March 22, 2021. Michigan was just the second state with BetMGM Poker, joining New Jersey.

Looking ahead: The big question remains when interstate compacting will take place in the state. That will allow Michiganders to play head-to-head against players in other states.

Projections were for a 2021 launch of World Series of Poker in Michigan, but here we are into 2022 and nothing has happened. The launch of WSOP, along with Michigan joining the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement will lead to interstate compacting.

Michigan appears ready to join but is awaiting approval from the other states to give the thumbs up.

Once WSOP is launched in the state, Online Bracelet Series events are sure to draw a lot of attention for in-state poker players.

Feb. 15, 2021 – First tribal online casino & sportsbook launches

The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians would be the first to get into online sports betting and casinos in February.

Four Winds Casinos joined the mix, partnering with Kambi to be the first of three self-branding tribal operators to launch during 2021. Four Winds operates casinos in Dowagiac, Hartford and New Buffalo.

Through November, Four Winds raised $19.2 million in online casino revenue. It also took in more than $4.8 million in online sports bets.

Since Feb. 15, both FireKeepers Casino and Play Gun Lake have joined the mix as tribal operators to launch online sportsbooks & casinos.

Looking Ahead: As we noted, Soaring Eagle is in the works to join the party as well. That will give Michiganders plenty of options around the state.

These developments are significant for Michigan bettors.

But there’s also a larger picture here for how tribes view their slice of the online gambling pie. Many states will be looking to learn from the relationship here between tribes, operators and state governments.

July 22, 2021 – Evolution provides live dealer games

Another major milestone in the last year came in July. It would be the launch of live dealer online casino games.

The new addition launched on July 22 through Evolution, which was approved by the Michigan Gaming Control Board. Blackjack, baccarat and roulette could be played from home with a live dealer running the game from a studio in Southfield.

This step was big in attracting players that still sought a form of social interaction while playing. It also provided more transparency for players that were maybe suspicious of an AI dealer.

Following the launch, Michigan’s internet gaming sector increased its revenue by 3.5% to $92.3 million in July.

Now, 11 different casinos have live dealer casino games available for users, many of the operators offering branded tables and more interaction within the same platform.

Looking Ahead: Evolution no longer has a monopoly in Michigan, as Playtech launched live casino products with PlayGunLake. One block in Southfield probably added more gaming jobs than any other area in Michigan in 2021. How will the neighbors co-exist in 2022?

October 2021 – Record Revenue Month

Throughout 2021, we saw big revenue numbers come from the online gambling industry, particularly online casinos.

None were bigger than what we saw in the month of October (though we’re still waiting for December’s haul).

The 14 operators set a record by raising $109.7 million in revenue for the month.

BetMGM has been leading the way throughout the year. It produced $41.38 million in revenue for October.

Without December numbers available yet, it’s safe to assume that Michigan will end the year with four consecutive months of revenue in nine figures.

Looking Ahead: It’s understandable that the first year would see a big boost in revenue, but can Michigan continue the trend?

The big swing didn’t start until April of 2021, but Michigan will pass $1 billion in online gambling revenue in less than a year. That’s compared to $257.4 million in online sports betting revenue through November, and less than $100 million in taxable revenue after operators write-off promotions. Take note other states: It’s easy to see where the true online gambling money comes from.

With COVID-19 spread still rampant, it could force many gamblers to remain online and at home for the time being. Also, with continued advancements in casino games and poker, Michigan still has a lot of growth ahead.

Photo by Shutterstock
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Drew Ellis

Drew Ellis has lived in Michigan his whole life, and has been writing professionally for the last 21 years. Ellis has covered anything from youth baseball in mid-Michigan, a top-25 college football program, and pro sports in the Detroit area. Always keeping busy, Ellis also has over 10 years of experience in covering sports betting, handling all major sports.

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