False Start: Several Michigan Sportsbooks Hope To Be Ready For Football Season

Posted on June 5, 2020

There was more than a week to spare before March Madness when three retail sportsbooks in Detroit opened.

Michigan’s 12 federally recognized tribal casinos were going to miss the basketball action anyway. Some casinos planned late spring or summer launches for their in-house sportsbooks, even building in some cushion to ensure a piece of the fall football pie.

Well, you know the rest of the story. The COVID-19 pandemic not only triggered the cancellation of the NCAA Tournament, but much of sports betting life was put on hold.

After one long false start for Michigan sports betting, many of the region’s casinos will now be put to the test.

Soaring Eagle sportsbook yet to take off

The state’s largest tribal casino, Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort in Mount Pleasant, had an aggressive late-spring timeline for its retail sportsbook. However, Mike Bean, the CEO of Saginaw Chippewa Gaming Enterprises, said there will be late summer or early fall launch.

Sportsbook plans at Soaring Eagle still include the Ascend sports bar and a handful of betting kiosks throughout the venue.

“The COVID-19 situation slowed things substantially,” said Bean in an email to PlayMichigan. Bean manages Soaring Eagle and Saganing Eagles Landing Casino & Hotel in Standish.

Both facilities only reopened on Monday. Bean said the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe is still not ready to announce its sports betting and an online casino partner.

Meanwhile, mobile sports betting and online casinos are expected to launch later this year or early next year, as the Michigan Gaming Control Board and MI Legislature crawl through the rule-making process.

DraftKings, Bay Mills pact could break news lull

DraftKings Sportsbook announced its entry into the Michigan market on Thursday morning, with its Bay Mills Indian Community partnership.

The deal will bring one of the nation’s largest mobile sports betting apps to the Great Lakes State and a retail sportsbook at Bay Mills Casino & Resort in Brimley, a small town in the eastern Upper Peninsula. The Bay Mills tribe also operates nearby Kings Club Casino.

Odawa Casinos achieves Victories

Ron Olson, the general manager of Odawa Casinos, had hoped that sports betting would be live at the casino’s Petoskey and Mackinaw City locations by now.

However, Olson will have to settle for remodels – and no bets yet –  at the new Victories Sports & Entertainment Complex in Petoskey.

Olson said the casino submitted a letter to the National Indian Gaming Commission for approval to start retail sports betting. He hopes it will go live in August.

The Odawa operators, the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, have partnered with USBookmaking for the retail sports betting operation. The Las Vegas family business operates sportsbooks at three tribal casinos. One in New Mexico and the other sportsbooks are in the works for Colorado and Iowa.

Odawa is partners with The Stars Group for its online sports betting and iGaming operations.

When will other tribal casinos launch retail sportsbooks?

Here is the rundown of what we know about other tribal casinos and their sportsbooks in Michigan.

Lower Peninsula sportsbooks

  • FireKeepers Casino, Battle Creek: The casino reopened on June 1. The launch date for the retail Dacey’s Sportsbook is delayed. Scientific Games will operate the book.
  • Four Winds Casinos: A reopening date of June 15 is set. Nothing has been announced about partnerships or launch dates for retail sportsbooks at the chain’s three Michigan locations in Dowagiac, Hartford, and New Buffalo. The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians operates the casinos.
  • Gun Lake Casino, Wayland: The casino reopened on Monday. Stage 131 Sportsbook & Lounge will be the initial host of a retail sportsbook, which will be operated by Parx, a Greenwood Racing casino north of Philadelphia. There isn’t a launch date, but will take a “phased approach.”
  • Leelanau Sands Casino, Peshawbestown: The casino reopened on May 29. A satellite location for William Hill Sportsbook at Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel is planned at nearby Leelanau Sands, but it’s unclear what impact the COVID-19 closure has on the timeline.
  • Little River Casino, Manistee: The casino reopened on May 29. No timetable or partnership has been announced for Little River, which has publicized its River Rock Sportsbook & Grille. The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians operates the casino.
  • Turtle Creek Casino, Williamsburg: The casino reopened on May 29. The UK sports betting giant previously announced a launch this year for the William Hill Sportsbook at Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel, but it’s unclear what impact the COVID-19 closure had on the launch. The sportsbook will be at the Onyx Sports Bar.

Upper Peninsula sportsbooks

  • Island Resort & Casino, Harris: The casino reopened on May 16. The Hannahville Indian Community has not announced partnership or a timeline for the retail sportsbook launch.
  • Kewadin Casinos: The five locations will reopen on June 12. There’s no launch estimate for five planned retail sportsbooks in Christmas, Hessel, Manistique, Sault Ste. Marie and St. Ignace casinos. GAN is the technology partner.
  • Northern Waters Casino Resort, Watersmeet: The casino reopened on May 22. PointsBet of Australia has a pact with the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, the company’s first tribal market access deal. There isn’t an announced timetable yet for the retail sportsbook launch.
  • Ojibwa Casinos: The Keewenaw Bay Indian Community has announced no timetable for partnership. No reopening date yet for either Baraga or Marquette locations.

When will Detroit sportsbooks reopen?

Detroit’s three casinos await the go-ahead from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to partially reopen. She announced on Monday that the state’s bars and restaurants could open to 50% capacity on June 8.

However, commercial casinos are not a part of this phase. The governor said she hopes to move to the next reopening stage before July 4.

Greektown Casino-Hotel, MGM Grand Detroit and MotorCity Casino have been closed since March 16.

The Penn National Gaming property of Greektown has a temporary sportsbook and will launch a Barstool Sportsbook in the middle of the casino floor. MGM rebranded Moneyline Sports Lounge as BetMGM Sports Lounge at launch, and MotorCity opened FanDuel Sportsbook with Detroit Lions legend Barry Sanders on March 12.

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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 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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