Hard Rock Positioned To Join Michigan iGaming Market After Acquiring 888

Written By Matthew Lomon on March 28, 2024
Biplane with the Hard Rock online casino logo on its wing is pulling a banner that reads

Hard Rock‘s chances of entering Michigan’s competitive online gambling space recently shifted from possible to probable following its purchase of 888 Holdings‘ US assets.

The latter announced the sale of its American B2C operations to Hard Rock in a statement released Thursday morning. As a result, Hard Rock appears poised to become The Great Lakes State’s newest online operator.

Per 888, the disposal of its US assets will unfold in a phased sequence. The UK-based firm says it expects to complete the final stage of its departure in this year’s fourth quarter.

However, no move into the state will be official until it receives approval from the Michigan Gaming Control Board.

888’s premeditated effort to exit US market advancing

The writing has been on the wall for 888 for some time now, and the Hard Rock sale further solidified what those covering the situation already knew: 888 wanted out of the US market and was moving with purpose to do so.

One of the first dominos in 888’s plan to withdraw from the American iGaming space fell on March 6 when the international operator announced the termination of its partnership with Sports Illustrated. Only a handful of states were affected by the news, but Michigan was one of them.

The departure of SI’s online casino product meant one of Michigan’s 15 coveted online operator licenses was now available. And,  Hard Rock didn’t waste any time pouncing on the opportunity.

Hard Rock opts to fill vacant license left by 888 and SI Casino

Earlier this week, gambling industry analyst and consultant Steve Ruddock reported in his weekly Straight to the Point newsletter that Hard Rock could enter the open Michigan online casino and sports betting market in two ways: 1) fill the vacancy left by 888/SI Casino, or 2) acquire Rush Street Interactive.

A mere three days later, we got our answer. Ruddock identified the former as the more likely outcome to which Hard Rock clearly agreed. Instead of absorbing BetRivers and its 6.3% online casino market share (fourth-highest in Michigan), Hard Rock opted to focus solely on bringing its flare to online players in Michigan.

The entertainment giant moved quickly to secure the state’s final license, as rumors involving DraftKings began to circulate. Bloomberg initially reported on March 21 that the online gambling giant expressed interest in acquiring RSI. While DraftKings never substantiated those claims, the sheer mention of its alleged interest prompted other suitors to move swiftly.

Ultimately, this wrinkle gave credence to the notion that Hard Rock’s path of least resistance into Michigan was through the void left by SI Casino and 888.

Photo by PlayMichigan
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Matthew Lomon

Matthew Lomon has been a contributor at Catena Media’s network of regional sites since July 2022. He first broke into covering the legal North American gambling industry with PlayCanada. Since then, Matthew's reporting has extended to PlayMichigan, PlayPennsylvania, and PlayIllinois. Based out of Toronto, Ontario, Matthew is an avid (bordering on fanatic) sports fan.

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