Little River Casino Opens Northern Michigan’s First Sportsbook

Written By Matt Schoch on July 20, 2020 - Last Updated on October 14, 2020
River Rock Sportsbook Launch

After two recent tribal casino sportsbook openings downstate, sports betting has now opened in northern Michigan.

Little River Casino Resort in Manistee opened River Rock Sportsbook & Grill for action on Friday, the state’s eighth casino with a sportsbook and the fifth on tribal land.

The sportsbook opened while Michigan battles the COVID-19 pandemic, which has flared up recently after the spread initially slowed.

The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians partnered with Rush Street Interactive to launch BetRivers in Michigan when online gambling launches.

Little River joins Michigan’s growing sportsbook market

FireKeepers Casino Hotel in Battle Creek opened the state’s first tribal casino sportsbook last month, while betting started last week at a trio of Four Winds Casinos in southwest Michigan.

Detroit’s three commercial casinos, Greektown Casino-Hotel, MGM Grand Detroit and MotorCity Casino, opened sportsbooks in March.

Each of the state’s 15 casino operators — 12 federally recognized tribes and three commercial casinos — can operate online casinos and sports betting upon launch.

The latest estimate for online launch is late this year or early 2021, perhaps as early as October.

Ceremonial bet on Detroit Lions to win Super Bowl

The Manistee News Advocate reported that the city’s mayor, Roger Zielinski, placed a $20 wager on the Detroit Lions winning the Super Bowl for the ceremonial opening bet.

It’s possible the Lions win it all after one playoff victory since 1957. But the NFL wager might be more of a nod to the region’s inexperience with sports betting.

Jonnie Sam, sportsbook and table games manager, told the Traverse City Record-Eagle that it’s something the casino weighed when determining its offerings.

“We had to determine what the casino was comfortable with gambling with,” Sam said. “It was tough because very few people around here have sportsbook experience.”

What sportsbooks are up next in Michigan?

The Little River sportsbook is the first to open in the area affectionately known as “Up North” to downstaters.

However, there are still no sportsbooks set to open north of the Mackinac Bridge in the state’s Upper Peninsula.

A handful of Michigan tribal casinos have plans to open sportsbooks but no set date on when they will.

They include:

  • Bay Mills Casino in Brimley, which has partnered with DraftKings for online and retail sportsbook operations.
  • Gun Lake Casino in Wayland, which has partnered with Parx Casino near Philadelphia for sportsbook operations.
  • Island Resort and Casino in Harris, which has not announced a partnership for technology or sports betting.
  • Kewadin Casinos, which has partnered with GAN for sportsbook technology at their five UP locations.
  • Northern Waters Casino in Watersmeet, which has partnered with PointsBet.
  • Odawa Casinos in Mackinaw City and Petoskey, which have partnered with The Stars Group.
  • Ojibwa Casinos in Baraga and Marquette, which have partnered with Golden Nugget casino in Michigan for online gambling.
  • Soaring Eagle Casino of Mount Pleasant and Saganing Eagles Landing in Standish, which have not announced sportsbook or technology partners.
  • Turtle Creek Casino in Williamsburg and Leelanau Sands Casino & Lodge in Peshawbestown, which have partnered with William Hill Sportsbook for branding and technology.
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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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