MLB Spring Training Games Are Off The Board At Michigan Sportsbooks… For Now

Written By Matt Schoch on February 26, 2021
MLB spring training

We had sunshine in Michigan and Detroit Tigers baseball will be back on our radios this weekend. A yearly February dream, spring is starting to become a reality in some ways.

Baseball fans come alive this time of year, and the idea that somewhere, Miguel Cabrera is “as healthy as he’s been in years” means that another Detroit summer is on its way.

But for Michigan sports fans anxious to explore daily baseball odds in the state’s new sports betting landscape, wagers will have to wait until Opening Day.

Michigan is one of the few states that has not yet approved spring training bets. The Tigers open spring ball Sunday against Philadelphia.

The reason? Well, first off, none of the Michigan sports betting operators have asked for it yet.

Michigan online sportsbooks can ask, MGCB will decide

Wagering on spring training, preseason, or exhibition games was not written into the state’s Lawful Sports Betting Act or Internet Sports Betting Rules.

For sports and leagues to be approved and added to the state’s Sports Wagering Catalog, operators must request their addition.

According to Mary Kay Bean, spokesperson for the Michigan Gaming Control Board, no one has.

“The MGCB accepts requests for additions to the sports wagering catalog from operators and platform providers. If approved following agency review, a new league, game or wager is added to the catalog, and the catalog is updated on the MGCB website.

“The MGCB has not received a request to add spring training to the catalog.”

So far, only the regular season, playoffs, and tournaments are the wagers available for Major League Baseball.

However, there is an indication in the catalog’s guidelines that they would be approved, as it states “pre-season, all-star games, and all-star contest betting are authorized.” No sports have had any of those approved in Michigan … yet.

It is entirely possible an online sportsbook in Michigan could make the request before Sunday’s first spring game. But for now, it is off the board online and also at the retail sportsbooks at Detroit casinos, which are regulated by the MGCB.

Michigan tribal casinos could offer; FireKeepers won’t

Tribal casinos can offer markets that don’t have to be approved by the MGCB. None of the tribal sportsbooks with odds available online had spring training games posted on Friday afternoon.

Jim Wise of FireKeepers Casino in Battle Creek said the retail location there won’t be offering spring training markets because of the rule changes this year, including pitching change variables, which we will detail below.

Along those lines, FireKeepers did not offer NHL season win total bets as the league schedule has faced its own uncertainties because of the pandemic.

Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania approved spring training bets

In 2019, MLB sent letters to gaming regulators in three states to stop taking bets on spring training bets.

A variety of responses ensued, including some states not taking prop bets on Florida’s Grapefruit League and Arizona’s Cactus League action. Most of the concerns surround the fact that minor league players often take part in these exhibition games. The games themselves do not matter to the season as a whole.

Four of the forerunning states in online sports betting (Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey and Pennsylvania) approved spring training bets. And Nevada has had preseason baseball bets for years.

Wagering on spring training games is permitted at online sportsbooks in PA, according to PlayPennsylvania.

In 2020, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board set up wagering limitations and no prop betting rules on preseason games. Those rules will remain in place.

Oddly, almost all of the online gambling sites available in Michigan are also available in IL, IN, PA and NJ.

MLB spring training rule changes in 2021

When or if Michigan does grant approval for spring training bets, the preseason games are different this year.

MLB has made some changes to prepare pitchers for the regular season, mostly involving the length of the game.

Through March 13, games are scheduled for seven innings but can be shortened to five innings or extended to nine if both teams agree. From March 14 on, games will be scheduled for nine innings but can be shortened to seven upon mutual agreement.

There are also rules for pulling pitchers and then re-inserting them later. This allows relief pitchers to start working out of jams. Teams also can “roll” an inning, or stop an inning in progress regardless of the outs, if a pitcher has reached 20 pitches in the frame.

Ahh, pitch counts and never-ending calls to the bullpen. Nothing like the return of baseball — spring training betting or not — to signal a Michigan summer is near.

Photo by AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
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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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