MGCB: Hard Rock Must Apply For Its Own Online Casino License

Written By Corey Sharp on April 4, 2024 - Last Updated on May 3, 2024
MGCB Gaming License Application form with Hard Rock listed as the name applying. Despite purchasing 888's US assets, the MGCB told PlayMichigan that Hard Rock must apply for its own online casino license to launch.

Hard Rock has been linked as the next online casino platform in Michigan since purchasing 888 Holdings‘ US assets. But it won’t be automatic that Hard Rock comes to the Great Lakes State.

The Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) told PlayMichigan that Hard Rock needs to apply for its own license, should the company want to launch in the state.

With the departure of Sports Illustrated and 888, that leaves the state with an open license, giving Hard Rock a clear path to being the newest Michigan online casino.

What Hard Rock has to do to enter the Great Lakes State online casino market

Hard Rock appears likely to be the next operator to enter the Michigan online gambling market. The company made that clear after acquiring 888 US assets last week.

Sports Illustrated and 888 announced it had cut ties last month, therefore leaving the US gambling market altogether.

Hard Rock’s acquisition all but confirms the operator is eyeing Michigan as its next state. However, the company is keeping its cards close to the vest. A Hard Rock spokesperson did not provide PlayMichigan with any timeline or information on a Michigan entry.

MGCB Public Information Officer Lisa Keith did not have a timeline either. She did provide that Hard Rock would not automatically take over the Sports Illustrated/888 license. She told PlayMichigan:

“They will need to apply for a license independently from 888/SI’s license and receive Board approval once the application process is completed.”

It is assumed that Hard Rock would partner with Hannahville Casino’s open license.

How would Hard Rock’s online casino perform in Michigan?

It’s no secret that Sports Illustrated did not perform well in the Great Lakes State. The operator garnered 0.8% of online casino market share in 2023. It generated just $15.8 million, which was the lowest total of all 15 platforms.

Hard Rock wouldn’t have large shoes to fill, and would enter the market as a seasoned platform. The operator has an online sportsbook in Arizona, New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, Virginia, and Florida. It also operates an online casino in New Jersey.

The New Jersey and Michigan online casino markets are extremely comparable. Through January and February, the two markets have generated the following revenue totals:

  • New Jersey: $371.3 million
  • Michigan: $369.9 million

Hard Rock is partnered with its retail brand in the Garden State, along with bet365 and Unibet. Between the three operators, the license produced $10.3 million in February revenue. Since Unibet is leaving the US market this year, it is believed that bet365 and Hard Rock make the majority of the revenue.

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement announced earlier this week that it will start reporting revenue by operator starting this month (for March revenue). It should give a clearer picture of Hard Rock’s performance in New Jersey, and what it could bring to Michigan.

Despite Hard Rock online casino in Michigan appearing to be coming to fruition, nothing is definitive, nor automatic, yet.

Photo by PlayMichigan
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Corey Sharp

Corey Sharp joined Catena Media in 2022 and is the go-to expert for Michigan gambling. Born and raised in Philadelphia, PA, he previously worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer and NBC Sports Philadelphia as a sports journalist and content producer. In Corey’s role as Lead Writer for PlayMichigan, he works alongside a talented team of expert journalists and analysts to bring you the most comprehensive and accurate coverage of gambling news in Michigan. Corey’s contacts around the industry makes him a trusted source. Corey produces daily stories and features about the gambling space. Corey graduated from Holy Family University in Philadelphia with a bachelor’s degree in sports management.

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