Illinois Adds Online Sports Betting; Will Michigan Be Next?

Posted on June 19, 2020

With BetRivers launching its sportsbook, Illinois became the 11th state to add online sports betting on Thursday.

Michigan could become the 12th state to do so.

For now, the Great Lakes State will have to watch from the sidelines as another neighboring state offsets COVID-19 revenue losses with sports betting from home.

Illinois joined Colorado, Iowa, Indiana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and West Virginia in offering mobile sports betting. Washington, DC, also has online sports betting within its borders.

Michigan online sports betting launch expected in 2020

It’s only a matter of when Michigan will launch online gambling.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the expanded gambling laws in December, and retail sports betting was fast-tracked for a March launch to capture NCAA tournament wagers.

But online gambling brings about its own challenges.

One complication is the Michigan Gaming Control Board, which will oversee Michigan’s 12 federally recognized tribes in online gambling operations.

The rule-making process was expected to be completed in early 2021, but MGCB Executive Director Richard Kalm said he’s now “cautiously optimistic” for a 2020 launch.

This week, Sen. Adam Hollier introduced a bill that could permit temporary licenses for online casino operators during the COVID-19 pandemic.

That bill would not hasten the launch for mobile sports betting.

Top online sportsbooks set to launch in Michigan

To launch a sports betting app in the Great Lakes State, operators have to partner with one of Detroit’s three casinos or one of the tribal casinos.

Some of the biggest sports betting brands have already announced partnerships to launch in Michigan. They include:

Illinois beat Michigan to retail sports betting by two days

When Michigan went live with retail sports betting on March 11, Illinois had launched sports betting two days earlier.

As in Michigan, it was Rivers Casino, the BetRivers partner, that was the first to launch in Illinois on March 9.

The Des Plaines facility, near Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, is owned by Rush Street Gaming, which also operates Rivers Casinos in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Schenectady, NY.

However, both Illinois and Michigan were left out in the cold for retail sports betting. The pandemic started shutting down the sports world and, within days, the casinos were closed.

Most of Michigan’s tribal casinos are now open, though Detroit’s three commercial casinos await word from Gov. Whitmer to do so.

The Illinois Gaming Board has approved reopening plans for 10 casinos, possibly for later this month.

In Michigan, the shutdown has cost public entities about $100 million.

Another neighbor beats Michigan

Illinois is just the latest Midwest counterpart to beat Michigan to the online sports betting punch. Indiana and another Midwest neighbor, Pennsylvania, already have online sports betting.

Indiana’s first online sportsbooks launched on Oct. 3 when BetRivers and DraftKings opened. The state now has seven online sports betting options after Caesars launched on May 19.

Pennsylvania launched online sports betting on May 31, 2019. That state now has seven betting apps.

More nearby competition could be on the way for Michigan.

More competition coming soon

Michigan could have more online sports betting competitors coming soon to the south and across the international border.

Ohio’s House passed a sports betting bill, and the Senate already has one in the works. Both would enact online sports betting in the Buckeye State.

Canada has long had parlay-style bets at retail sports betting locations, such as Caesars Windsor. However, pro sports leagues commissioners are leaning on the federal government to expand with single-event sports betting.

Mobile sports betting is not currently included in the bill.

Matt Schoch Avatar
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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 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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