Mobile bet building was nice but hardly seemed essential when Kambi introduced its first Michigan sportsbook platform in March.
Four months and two days later, the useful mobile method is taking on a new level of importance in the COVID-19 world.
While mobile betting apps in Michigan won’t launch for a few months, fans can now design bets from home. After the bet is designed on the Kambi website, bettors can bring their QR code with a mobile device to Four Winds, placing the bet without touching any other screens.
After Monday’s opening of Four Winds Sportsbook in New Buffalo, an official touted the innovation as an important way forward.
“It’s certainly the dynamic piece that helps customers feel comfortable,” said Frank Kennedy, senior vice president of casino operations at Four Winds Casinos, to PlayMichigan on a phone call shortly after the opening. “They can do their research in the comfort of their own home, and just come to make the wager when they’re ready.”
Four Winds is Michigan’s second tribal sportsbook
Four Winds became the state’s second tribal casino sportsbook and fifth overall. The New Buffalo opening marked the second Kambi sportsbook in Michigan, joining Penn National Gaming’s Greektown Casino-Hotel, which debuted sports betting on March 11.
Four Winds Casinos also opened satellite sportsbooks at two nearby locations in Dowagiac and Hartford.
The Four Winds operators are the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, one of Michigan’s 12 federally recognized Native American tribes. The tribe also operates a fourth Four Winds location in South Bend, IN, which does not yet have a sportsbook.
Four Winds follows FireKeepers Casino as the state’s only tribal casinos so far to open sportsbooks. FireKeepers opened its Dacey’s Sportsbook on June 22.
McMichael bets Bears for ceremonial wager
Chicago Bears legend Steve McMichael put $20 on an NFL bet that his former team will win the Super Bowl for the first Four Winds bet.
“Mongo” is a popular Chicagoland athlete, the main major market draw for the quartet of Four Winds locations.
Shortly after the New Buffalo opening, Four Winds opened sportsbook counters at its Dowagiac and Hartford locations in southwest Michigan. There is no estimated launch for a South Bend sportsbook.
In Indiana, the tribe’s compact does not currently allow for sports betting or table games, though the tribe has requested negotiations to do so.
What’s in the Four Winds Casino sportsbooks?
The flagship New Buffalo location has 18 betting kiosks with six apiece in Dowagiac and Hartford.
New Buffalo also has four betting windows at the sportsbook. Bets can be placed at the cashier’s cage at the other Michigan locations.
None of the Michigan casinos have betting lounges. However, New Buffalo’s book is located adjacent to Timbers restaurant, C Bar, and Hard Rock Cafe, which show sporting events.
“We’ve not created a lounge, per se,” Kennedy said. “We created a betting area and we’re utilizing the existing bar and lounge space that we have.”
The Michigan sportsbooks are open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. with kiosks open 24 hours a day with attendants ready to help, Kennedy said.
The hours will extend when the normal sports calendar resumes.
Online branding is “Four Winds” for now
Kambi also will power the Four Winds online technology with internet sports betting and online casinos expected to launch this fall in Michigan.
As far as online branding, Kennedy was noncommittal. However, he did say the plan, for now, is in-house branding as Four Winds.
Some of Michigan’s other tribal casinos, such as Soaring Eagle in Mount Pleasant and FireKeepers, are also considering self-branding online.
However, as the state’s online launch nears, more partners could offer for entrance into a robust Michigan market.
“It’ll be our own marketing effort, which we preferred over some of the other casinos that have branded with national partners,” Kennedy said. “We have a lot of time to decide that, but at this point in time we’re not planning any changes.”
Long sportsbook goal realized on Monday
It was a celebratory mood on Monday, Kennedy said. And a safe one, as Four Winds is requiring masks to fight the spread of the coronavirus.
“We’ve been at this for well over a year, identifying the right online partner, waiting for the state regulatory body to finish its work and provide the rules,” Kennedy said. “Then, we get our internal controls and regulations set and approved.”
“It’s been a very large labor to get to this point. But it’s very fulfilling to see it open for the public.”