Eight Resolutions For The Michigan Gambling Industry In 2024

Written By Dave Briggs on January 3, 2024
The year 2024 in gold gold with a black and gold poker chip serving as the zero. The poker chip has a gold outline of the state of Michigan to indicate eight resolutions for the state's gambling industry in 2024.

Michigan is blessed to have one of the most robust and sensible gambling industries. So, it’s a bit nit-picky to suggest the sector should adopt resolutions to do better.

But, in the spirit of the season and the belief that there is always room for improvement, here are eight resolutions PlayMichigan hopes the industry can turn into reality in 2024.

1. Intensify the crackdown on illegal gambling

Illegal gambling robs all Michiganders and puts consumers at risk from unregulated sites.

Those that gamble on illegal sites risk not getting paid if they win. And, all the money bet online via unregulated sites leaves the state because, of course, it’s not taxed.

In Michigan, tax revenue from gambling helps fund a variety of programs, the two biggest being education and first responders. Through November, 2023 tax revenue from Michigan online casinos and sportsbooks alone has exceed $460 million. Lifetime, total taxes from online gambling in Michigan are nearly $1.2 billion.

The Michigan Gaming Control Board made notable gains in 2023 cracking down on illegal gambling. But, there’s more work to be done and it would be nice to see the MGCB step up its efforts.

Perhaps it could use part of its award-winning “Don’t Regret The Bet” campaign to educate Michiganders about why they should gamble only on regulated sites and how to find them.

2. Better statistics and reporting from the MGCB

Remember, off the top we said this might be a bit nit-picky. The MGCB does a terrific job on collecting and releasing statistics on Michigan’s gambling industry. In fact, it is better than most states.

Yet, we still have resolutions that include more details about online gambling activity to better track trends.

Some resolutions to break numbers down further include:

  • Having poker numbers separate from those for table games.
  • A sport-by-sport gambling breakdown.
  • The number of active users of both online casinos and sportsbooks each month.
  • The average monthly amount bet on online sites.
  • Following Massachusetts’ lead, it would be nice to know each month how many customers are using operators’ responsible gambling tools where players can set limits for deposits and bets.
  • Monthly reports on the number of users of the state’s responsible gambling programs.

3. Improve frequency and details of tribal casino revenue reports

While we’re talking about revenue reports, getting a full picture of how the entire Michigan gambling sector is doing is problematic.

While we get detailed information about online gambling and the three Detroit retail casinos monthly, the information from the state’s 23 tribal casinos is sparse and only released yearly.

All that is provided is a 2% of net winnings from Class III machines that goes to local government. That doesn’t provide a full picture of the kind of revenue these casinos are fully amassing.

That makes it tough to get a full assessment about the entire gambling sector.

It would be terrific to get monthly reports from tribal casinos and incorporate them into the other revenue reports.

4. Continue the growth of interstate poker play

Michigan made some gains in 2023 in terms of inter-state online poker play. But, more needs to be done from a regulatory perspective to help Michigan online poker thrive.

Poker players are attracted by pool size and when prizes are limited just to the state of Michigan or a couple of states that limits the number of money in the pot.

One of Michigan’s resolutions for 2024 should be to work to increase the number of states legally available in the player pools.

5. Revitalize Michigan’s horse racing industry

Long the only gambling game in the state, Michigan’s horse racing industry has been on the verge of extinction for many years.

Thoroughbred racing left the state initially in 1985 — though, it had a brief resurgence in 2014 before stopping again in 2018 when Hazel Park was closed.

Prior to that, the Detroit Race Course closed in 1998.

Only Northville Downs still offers live horse racing in the form of harness racing.

Much of the sport’s demise can be traced to the growth of retail and online gambling in Michigan. Other forms of gambling cannibalized horse racing bettors. And, unlike other states, horse racing didn’t receive a cut of casino revenue.

Northville Downs is still hoping to build a casino that would help save a labor-intensive horse breeding and racing industry that provides important jobs in rural Michigan communities where employment is scarce.

More needs to be done to help the Michigan horse racing industry find alternative funding sources to dwindling handle.

6. A resolution to the Fruitport casino situation

The long-promised off-reservation casino to be operated in Fruitport Township by the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians still has yet to see a shovel in the ground.

Some progress was made when the Grand River Bands of Ottawa Indians Restoration Act was introduced in Congress in late-September. The bill aimed to give the tribe congressional federal recognition, something the band has sought since 1994.

Just prior to a groundbreaking on the casino in 2022, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer rejected the tribe’s proposal She cited the lack of federal recognition for the Grand River Bands. However, the tribe will be entitled to build an on-reservation casino in the vicinity of Fruitport Township if they received the proposed recognition.

Here’s hoping that recognition comes in 2024.

7. Raise the cap on the number of legal online gambling operators in Michigan

Michigan deserves kudos for being the rare state to offer legal online casinos and sports betting. It is, clearly, the winning model.

But, the state caps the number of Michigan online sports betting and casino operators at 15.

Across the border in Ontario — which also offers both online casinos and sportsbooks — there is no cap on the number of operators. Currently, Ontario is home to 52 different operators offering more than 70 different gambling sites.

That kind of wide-open sector provides the greatest consumer choice, lets the market determine the winners and provides the greatest possible return to the state in terms of tax revenue.

At the very least, it would be nice to see Michigan raise the cap to allow in more operators to shake up the industry and help drive revenue.

8. A year without labor disputes in the gambling industry

The year 2023 was a troubling one for Michigan’s gambling industry thanks to the first-ever Detroit casino workers’ strike that lasted about six weeks.

Another strike in 2024 is unlikely due to the fact long-term deals were signed with workers. But it never hurts to start the year with resolutions for labor peace and harmony in the gambling sector.

Photo by PlayMichigan
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Dave Briggs

Dave Briggs is a managing editor and writer for Catena Media. His expertise is covering the gambling industry in Michigan with an emphasis on online casino, online sports betting and horse racing sectors. He is currently reporting on the gambling industries in Michigan and Canada.

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