After Michigan missed out on March Madness betting in sportsbooks because of the COVID-19 pandemic, basketball fans had a long wait for sports betting.
But when a potentially big basketball day finally came, it was never going to be anything like that first big Thursday of the NCAA Tournament.
Alas the NBA rolled out its playoffs with games Monday afternoon. While it came during a pandemic with a 15% cap on occupancy in Detroit casinos, PlayMichigan hit all three sportsbooks in Detroit to catch the vibe, masks required and all.
Tough Monday assignment, to be sure.
For our trip to Greektown Casino-Hotel, MGM Grand Detroit and MotorCity Casino, we also brought along my brother, Brian Schoch, for a first-timer take from a big sports fan.
The Sportsbook At Greektown-Casino Hotel
The free Greektown parking structure had plenty of spots, and we crossed Monroe Street in the skywalk, temporarily the casino’s only entrance.
The walk-up temperature screening was quick and the workers patient, commanding patrons to stay socially distanced in line.
Greektown’s temporary sportsbook is predictably unremarkable, with 12 regular screens showing games and five screens with odds. There were 7 to 12 bettors in the sportsbook throughout the first half of Denver against Utah.
We used the Kambi Bet Builder feature on our phones to put together parlays. Instead of relating your picks to an attendant through the plexiglass, the QR code makes it much easier.
There are about 10 high-top tables with stools around them, but the small bar inside the temporary sportsbook is not open. With smoking temporarily banned inside Detroit’s casinos, Greektown is currently the most smoker-friendly, as the outdoor smoking patio is most easily accessible in its sportsbook.
“It’s okay,” said bettor John, who drives up from Columbus, Ohio, to bet sports. “They need to have more seats.”
Good news should be coming. The permanent Barstool Sportsbook is under construction with walls up on the casino floor around the facility. Greektown and owner Penn National Gaming have not announced a timeline for its opening.
For fun, I wanted to put a low-risk parlay together that got progressively tougher throughout the day. I was hoping it would culminate with my upset pick to close the night as a big winner: Dallas winning Game 1 outright over the Los Angeles Clippers on the moneyline.
It busted before that game tipped though. While Toronto easily won in my first leg, underdog Philadelphia couldn’t cover a 6.5-point spread against Boston in the day’s third game.
So I was free to watch Michelle Obama during the Dallas game anyway.
Brian’s take: Bring me Barstool
“It’s obviously temporary as they converted an existing room into a passable and functional room. But I am looking forward to seeing what the Barstool guys come up with.”
FanDuel Sportsbook at MotorCity Casino
Attendants herded cars to a checkpoint in the garage, where customers are temperature screened in the car before parking.
The FanDuel Sportsbook is two stories and looks like it could be the most ready for big football Sundays.
There were about 25 people watching overtime of Nuggets and Jazz. The crowd mostly approved Denver’s surge to win and cover. Throughout the two floors, there are about 25 comfortable chairs socially distanced, each with its own electrical outlet to power devices. There are also a handful of high-tops and bars and room to stand as well.
Friends Jason and David, both of Detroit, shared one of the high-tops. Both remarked that it’s nice to have sports betting in Detroit on a small scale.
“Whatever they do isn’t going to compete — this is Little League compared to Vegas,” David said.
Jason said he’s a horse racing bettor and still wagers through Daily Racing Form, not TVG Racebook, which was recently licensed by the Michigan Gaming Control Board to offer advance deposit wagering.
We used the IGT PlaySports-powered kiosks to bet the Toronto game instead of using the two open windows.
Getting out of the parking garage took a couple of laps before we found the exit, as one was blocked off to require one way in and one way out.
I won one! My first winning sports bet in a Detroit casino. What a world.
Brian opined that overs seemed to be a nice bet in the bubble, especially with players rested for the playoffs.
Indeed, the over was 47-39-2 in bubble regular-season games. There were only six teams whose over bets on their eight games went below .500, and only one was in action on Monday.
So while watching Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray go shot for shot, I figured Toronto and Brooklyn would surpass 221.5. My bet was a winner with 3:54 of the fourth quarter to spare.
Brian’s take: FanDuel has the best space so far
“The most impressive and creative layout of the three that provides a great environment for both a large crowd watching one event and smaller groups all watching different events. I’m really impressed with their use of space.”
BetMGM Sportsbook at MGM Grand Detroit
The BetMGM Sportsbook is Detroit’s biggest, and should play well for big events with three massive screens behind the bar.
I made bets at a window and listened to cynical Tigers fans insisting the run total was set too low.
“It should be 11, the way (Matthew) Boyd is pitching,” one fan said. (He was wrong.)
“No, he’ll pitch good tonight. No way they lose six in a row,” another countered. (Also wrong.)
Despite the NBA playoffs being on, the sportsbook had eclectic music playing instead, from dance music to Paul Simon.
There were about 20 bettors for the Brooklyn and Toronto game, the dud of the day’s slate.
Props to MGM Grand Detroit for touchless entry to the casino, though you’ll ultimately have to touch elevator buttons a few feet after that.
“If the playoffs would’ve started on Saturday, it would’ve been a different story,” said Kyle, of Eastpointe.
Kyle and Jamell, of Detroit, watched the games together, though Kyle said he was disappointed when he was told he had to get an M life Rewards card to wager $100 or more.
Enforcement kudos: A BetMGM worker sternly told our group to quickly re-cover your mouth and nose with the mask after taking a drink. Nicely done.
Overconfident in my winning overs bet, I parlayed overs in the night games: Philly and Boston (218), and then Dallas and LA (230.5).
Neither game went over. Maybe one of these days I’ll stop believing in Philly somehow getting it together on offense.
Brian’s take: Spacious
“Big and open, a lot of space. Probably more conducive to a large event everyone is watching, but as long as it isn’t too crowded you’re able to get in front of the event you’re increasingly feverishly watching.”
None of Detroit’s casinos carried UFC pay-per-view
Another interesting note: None of Detroit’s sportsbooks ordered Saturday night’s UFC pay-per-view featuring Stipe Miocic against Daniel Cormier.
Reps at all three books say they expect to have UFC and boxing pay-per-views in the future. As word about Detroit’s sportsbooks spreads and COVID-19 concerns die down, all three should carry big fights.