Below The Curve: Michigan Bettors 10th Best Against The ‘Books In 2021

Written By Drew Ellis on February 23, 2022 - Last Updated on March 11, 2024
Sad Lions fan

Real talk, Michigan – we have to be better.

Maybe some of you are insulted to hear that, but the proof is in the pudding. When it comes to successful online sports betting, Michigan has some improving to do.

While Michiganders weren’t last in betting success for 2021, they certainly weren’t first.

With online sportsbooks nationwide recording a 7.2% hold for 2021, Michigan’s 8% hold isn’t exactly a gold-star effort. Perhaps Michigan bettors are gambling more with their hearts than their heads.

What exactly is ‘the hold’?

When referencing a hold, that relates to what a sportsbook is winning compared to the bets from the public.

The percentage is the amount of money that sportsbooks keep for every dollar wagered. To calculate, simply take the revenue total and divide it by the handle.

We already took a deep dive into how Michigan stacked up in online handle and revenue compared to the rest of the country.

That showed that Michigan ranked sixth nationally in online sports betting handle in 2021 at $3,655,278,366. In terms of online revenue, Michigan finished fourth with $292,172,413.

What that equates to is the sportsbooks finishing with a hold of 8% within the state.

A look at the numbers for 2021

Here’s a complete look at the online handle, online revenue and hold for sports betting in each state.

StateHandleRevenueHold Percentage
New Hampshire$545,111,030$35,019,1716.4%
West Virginia$411,407,252$29,921,1107.3%
New Jersey$9,949143,033$740,274,3137.4%
Rhode Island$241,076,790$20,2779368.4%
District of Columbia$45,674,933$7,629,77216.7%

Michigan narrowly in the top 10

Normally a top-10 finish might be something to praise.

But, given just 19 states had online sports betting in 2021, finishing 10th is a failing grade. Also consider one of those states is Washington D.C.

Now, 8% isn’t atrocious. I mean, the nation’s capital is embarrassing itself at 16.7%. Perhaps they were betting on Washington’s college football team and not the Washington Football Team.

Still, Michigan is taking a back seat to fellow Midwest states like Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Pennsylvania.

I can understand Nevada leading the way at 3.7%. Those guys basically eat, sleep and breathe gambling. But, Iowa? How is Iowa kicking our butts in sports betting? Cornhole can’t possibly be that easy to predict.

Stop betting with your heart

I have to believe that part of the reason for Michigan’s 8% hold is the pro sports teams in the state.

Michigan sports fans showcase a head-scratching amount of loyalty to their teams. I’m certainly guilty of it myself.

Outside of MSU/U-M football (a combined 20-6-1 against the spread last season), there isn’t much reliability with Michigan’s top programs.

  • Detroit Lions: While the Lions were actually an impressive 11-6 against the spread during the 2021 NFL season, they were still just 3-13-1 overall. Stop taking them on the moneyline.
  • Detroit Pistons: The Pistons are in the hunt for a No. 1 pick again, sitting 13-45 on the season. Against the spread, the Pistons are more respectable at 27-31. That’s still a losing margin. Cade Cunningham has been a bright spot, but not likely to be Rookie of the Year despite a large amount of local wagers.
  • Detroit Red Wings: The Wings are actually showing a little fight this season. However, it has led to 23-22-6 record overall. Those darn shootouts and overtimes aren’t helping bettors.
  • Detroit Tigers: Who knows when the 2022 season may start. Figures, after the Tigers showed some life with a 77-85 record in 2021. Instead of relying on the moneyline with Detroit, consider the spread. The Tigers were 93-68 against the spread last season.
  • MSU basketball: Almost mirroring how it plays, Michigan State is completely unpredictable as a bettor. The Spartans are 13-13-1 against the spread for this college basketball season.
  • Michigan basketball: When not fighting with other coaches, Michigan has done a fine job of losing at the betting window this CBB season. They are just 10-15 ATS.

Hopefully this is the reality check the state needs. The 2022 betting year is already off to a flying start with record-setting wagers on SuperBowl LVI. Of course, this state hammered Matthew Stafford and the Rams minus the points (the Rams won, but did not cover).

Oh well, there’s always 2023.

Photo by Lon Horwedel / Associated Press
Drew Ellis Avatar
Written by
Drew Ellis

Drew Ellis is currently the Lead Writer of He was the former Lead Writer of PlayMichigan, the No. 1 source for online gambling news in Michigan. A lifelong resident of the state, Ellis has been working in various forms of media since 1998, including more than a decade in the sports betting industry prior to transitioning into US casino markets in 2020.

View all posts by Drew Ellis
Privacy Policy