Michigan Casinos Finding Plenty Of Partners For Sports Betting

Written By Matt Schoch on April 9, 2020
Gun Lake Best of the West

The run-up to legalized sports betting in Michigan has been kind of like a square dance.

As politicians did the legislative shuffle in Lansing, MI, casino executives and tribal administrations circled with numerous entities to run their sportsbooks and provide sports betting technologies.

Bruce Dall, president of MotorCity Casino, said the suitors were plentiful leading up to last month’s sportsbook opening at the Detroit facility.

“We were at ICE London a year ago, and at one point, we had 22 offers to partner,” Dall said last month as MotorCity unveiled its FanDuel Sportsbook.

“But FanDuel obviously came out (of) the gate great in New Jersey. It’s been a great brand for us to work with.”

Owned by Detroit billionaire Marian Ilitch, MotorCity spent just over $3 million to build the two-story, nearly 9,000-square-foot sports betting facility. It opened right as sports leagues worldwide were shutting down because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Like MotorCity with FanDuel, casinos across the state hope the deals they brokered have them in position to prosper whenever sports come back.

Barstool, BetMGM hit Motown

Detroit’s other two casinos, Greektown Casino-Hotel and MGM Grand Detroit, did not have decisions to make locally for their partnerships.

Greektown, owned by Penn National Gaming, announced a sports betting partnership with Barstool Sports in January, with much of the focus geared toward sportsbook branding.

And while Greektown’s temporary location is not Barstool-branded, the forthcoming permanent one will be when it opens later this year, said John Drake, general manager of Greektown, during the sportsbook’s opening last month.

UK-based Kambi is the technology partner for Greektown.

Across town on March 11, MGM Grand Detroit unveiled its new sportsbook, branded as BetMGM like many others in the MGM family, such as The Mirage, Bellagio and Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

Representatives from operator Roar Digital, a joint venture between MGM and GVC, were also on hand for the BetMGM opening in Detroit.

Matt Prevost, chief marketing officer for Roar, said MGM Grand Detroit representatives did their part at the local level to start things out on a high note.

“The property has built a great relationship with the local community, the local regulators and that only has made the process of going live in Michigan as seamless as it could be,” Prevost said.

Across the Lower Peninsula

Outside of Detroit, many of the 12 other Lower Peninsula casinos have forged partnerships.

William Hill has partnered with a pair of casinos in northwest Michigan operated by the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians: Turtle Creek and Leelanau Sands.

FireKeepers Casino in Battle Creek plans to brand its online casino and sports betting app around its property with Scientific Games serving as its technology partner.

Gun Lake Casino in Wayland has partnered with Parx Casino in Pennsylvania, owned by Greenwood Racing Inc., for its sportsbook operations and online gaming site.

The Stars Group announced in January a partnership with the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians. The tribe will use the Fox Bet app for online betting through the Odawa casinos in Petoskey and Mackinaw City.

Mike Bean, CEO of Soaring Eagle in Mount Pleasant, said in an email Wednesday to PlayMichigan that he was not yet ready to announce technology or branding partnership plans for their three casinos.

Little River Casino in Manistee and Four Winds Casino, which has three locations in southwest Michigan, has not made any announcements about its sports betting plans.

Over the Mackinac Bridge

In the Upper Peninsula, some of the the 11 casinos have announced partnerships.

The Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians was one of the first entities statewide to go public in January. The tribe announced a PointsBet partnership for mobile sports wagering and online gaming services.

The tribe also announced in January that it was in exclusive negotiations with PointsBet for the operation of its retail sportsbook at its Northern Waters Casino Resort in Watersmeet near the Wisconsin border.

Kewadin Casinos, which has five locations in the U.P., has partnered with GAN for retail sports betting and online casinos.

Among the most notable developments in Michigan is which operator has not partnered yet with a casino.

Stephen Miraglia, director of communications for DraftKings, said in an email to PlayMichigan on Wednesday that the company had nothing to announce at the moment.

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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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