Online casinos are now legal in Michigan.
In December, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a package of gambling expansion bills passed by the Michigan House and Senate into law. In addition to legalizing sports betting, fantasy sports contests, and online poker, these bills legalized online casino games in the state.
When will online casinos launch?
When the first online casino sites will go live in Michigan remains to be seen.
The state says rules and guidelines must be created before a licensing process takes place. Plus, operators will need some time to get the technology up and running.
However, there is some hope this could all happen by October 2020.
Licensing and fees
Only existing Michigan casinos, including the three Detroit commercial casinos and 23 tribal casinos across the state, will be able to procure online casino licenses. Those that do will be able to offer casino-style games like blackjack and slots to anyone 21 or older and inside state lines.
The five-year online casino license comes with a $50,000 application fee, a $100,000 initial license fee, and a $50,000 annual fee.
Plus, operators will be subject to a tiered tax structure starting at 20% for adjusted gross receipts of less than $4 million and peaking at 28% for over $12 million. Detroit commercial casinos will also pay an additional 1.25% city tax.
How online casinos are expected to benefit Michigan
A total of 65% of the state taxes on Michigan online gambling paid by operators will go into the state’s Internet Betting Fund. Some of this money will be used to cover administrative costs, with most of the rest going to the state’s School Aid Fund. Plus, $2 million annually will be allocated to support first responders, and $500,000 will go to compulsive gambling programs.
Another 30% of the state taxes collected will go to the city in which the operator’s casino is located. These funds have been earmarked for policing and other public safety programs.
The final 5%, or up to $3 million annually, will go into a fund to support and promote the horse racing industry.
Suppliers working with Michigan online gambling operators will have to be licensed, as well. These suppliers will be subject to a $5,000 application fee, a $5,000 initial license fee, and a $2,500 annual fee.
Some good news for Michigan online casino players comes in the form of a tax break for operators who offer free play to gamblers. The law allows for online casinos to deduct 10% from the gross receipts for free play for the first three years. Plus 6% in the fourth year and 4% in the fifth year.
Ultimately, this means there should be plenty of free play promotions running in the first five years of online gambling in Michigan.
Online casino games in Michigan
Slots are the most popular online casino game in the US, and Michigan online casinos will likely open with hundreds of different slot titles available. Blackjack is a close second, and casinos will undoubtedly offer a number of blackjack variants, as well.
Here’s a list of all the games Michigan online casinos will offer:
The popularity of slots demands they take up the most real estate in Michigan brick and mortar casinos. There’s little doubt they will also take up the most bandwidth at the state’s online casinos.
Slots have come a long way from the one-armed bandits featuring reels filled with bars, cherries and bells. Today’s modern video slots are visually impressive and feature enough gameplay to keep you busy for hours.
These days, online slots are simply online versions of the most popular slots you find in brick and mortar casinos. Popular slot designers like IGT, Bally and WMS are well represented online.
That means there’s plenty of classics and modern video slots online. In addition, there are wild symbols, scatter wins and bonus games. Plus, slots with popular television, movie, pop-culture and musical themes are available online.
There’s also plenty of fixed jackpots and progressive jackpots offering life-changing bundles of cash. In short, there will be hundreds of popular slot options at Michigan online casinos, which means something for everyone.
When it comes to card games, blackjack is king at Michigan casinos. It is the single most popular card game at online casinos across the US, too, and should be well-represented online in Michigan. Expect to find live dealer blackjack, six-deck and single-deck games, with a multitude of blackjack rule variations available.
Online casinos tend to favor American roulette with the single and double zero slot. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to find European roulette games at Michigan online casinos where the odds of winning are almost doubled just because the wheels have only a single zero.
Video poker translates to online casinos quite well. The same standards like jacks or better and deuces wild that you play at brick and mortar casinos are online. Plus, there’s every variant and multi-hand versions of games, as well.
Expect to find your favorite Game King video poker titles at Michigan online casinos and maybe even a few Michigan exclusives, too.
Craps is often the loudest, most fun and certainly most social game at Michigan casinos. Unfortunately, the social side of the game doesn’t translate well online.
It’s the same game, just without all the other players. That said, playing online craps is the No. 1 way to learn the game.
You’ll find any number of table games in live casinos. Some of the most popular will make the transition online. It’s a good bet these titles will be among them:
- Three-card poker
- Let it ride
- Ultimate Texas Hold ’em
- Pai gow poker
Live dealer games
Live dealer casino gaming combines the excitement of live casino games with the efficiency of online wagering.
Online casinos host live studios in which real dealers spread the most popular casino games, and you can then bet on them through the online wagering interface.
You can even interact with the dealers and other players in real time.
Michigan online casinos may offer the following live dealer games:
- Three-card poker
Michigan online casino apps
Mobile gaming is quickly becoming the most popular type of online gambling. That means that in addition to the browser-based online casino you can access from a mobile device or computer, Michigan online casino operators will also release iOS and Android mobile gaming apps.
These apps will likely feature a similar navigation system as the browser-based online casino site. It’s just that the apps often don’t have the full selection of games.
The mobile-friendly versions you can download to a smartphone or tablet do feature full account management and cashier functionality. Plus, the graphics are held on your phone, meaning most of the games they do have will initiate faster.
iPhone or iPad users will find Michigan online casino apps on Apple’s app store. Android users will have to download the app directly from the casino’s website.
As time moves on, developers are getting better at adding more and more content and features to casino apps. In other words, the mobile online casino experience is good and getting better. Plus, it’s available wherever you are with internet access inside the state of Michigan.
Online casino bonuses and no deposit offers
From the moment they open their virtual doors, Michigan online casinos will be giving away free play to players to get them gambling.
Tax breaks allowing the casinos to deduct 10% from the gross receipts for free play for the first three years, 6% in the fourth year and 4% in the fifth just about guarantee it.
The success New Jersey online casinos have had giving away free bonus cash to players as an incentive to sign up with a site means it’s good business.
Expect Michigan online casinos to award this free play to new and existing players in a variety of ways, including:
No deposit bonuses
Much like they sound, no-deposit bonuses are cash awards online casinos give players just for signing up for an account. No deposit is required. These are usually relatively small and come with a wagering requirement attached so that new players can’t just take the money and run.
Cash rebates are like insurance policies online casinos give new players. Gamble with a limited amount of funds in your first week or so on a site, and if you lose, the casino will give you your money back. Win and never look back.
Deposit bonuses come in two forms. Online casinos agree to match up to a certain percentage of your first deposit with them. Or the casinos agree to match up to a certain percentage of your next deposit with them.
Either way, there are wagering requirements attached so that you can’t just pocket the money. Regardless, these deposit bonuses can be some of the most lucrative you’ll find.
Online casinos can offer free play in the form of free spins on specified slot machines as an incentive for signing up with a site. Take your free spins while you can get them, win big, turn nothing into something and never look back.
Loyalty rewards and comp programs
Online casino ads are often focused on attracting new players with no-deposit and first-deposit bonuses. It kind of makes you wonder if Michigan online casinos will be doing anything to retain their existing loyal customer base once the newness of online gambling wears off a bit.
Like land-based casinos, Michigan online casinos will offer player loyalty programs aimed at retaining existing customers by rewarding loyalty.
The more you play, the more you earn.
You should be able to convert loyalty points into free play at Michigan online casinos. Plus, since the online casinos are all tied to land-based casino properties in the state, you should be able to convert your points into various rewards at the brick and mortar locations, as well.
Some of the larger casino corporations may even make their lucrative land-based loyalty programs available online in Michigan.
Geolocation and Michigan online casinos
The Michigan law legalizing and regulating online casinos includes language that requires online casino players to be in the state when they play.
You don’t have to be a resident to sign up for an account, but you have to be inside state lines when you do decide to play.
Michigan online casinos are going to more than just take your word for it.
Since the law makes it their responsibility to make sure players are where they say they are, online casinos will employ geolocation to ensure their players are inside Michigan’s borders.
Basically, geolocation is a positioning system used to pinpoint a player’s coordinates. It does this mostly by tracking the player’s IP address and triangulating his or her Wi-Fi signal.
There’s really no getting around geolocation technology. No IP masking software or VPN will help. That’s why Michigan online casinos will employ geolocation technology to make sure online casino players are in Michigan when they play.
Offshore vs. Michigan regulated casinos
Legal online casinos may be new to Michigan, but illegal online casinos are not. Offshore online casinos may have been illegally accepting customers from inside the state for years.
Some of these illegal offshore operations have somewhat decent reputations, but none have the government oversight the state of Michigan is prepared to provide for legal and licensed online casinos in the state.
That means customers have no recourse if something goes funny with the money at one of these offshore operators.
That’s the critical difference between legal Michigan online casinos and shady, offshore operators. If something goes wrong with a licensed online casino in the state of Michigan, you have somewhere to turn.
Plus, the licensing authority in the state gives each licensed online casino its stamp of approval and tests every game the casino offers to ensure fairness.
Mainstream deposit options — including credit cards, PayPal and bank transfers — are also available for licensed Michigan online casinos. Plus, each site is backed by a brick and mortar casino operation in the state. That means there is a Michigan presence for every online casino operator — somewhere you can turn if there’s ever any issue.
From a customer perspective, state regulation for online casinos is a good thing. Regulation means real government oversight and consumer protections.
Your money and personal information is not safe with offshore online casinos. You have little or no recourse if something goes awry, and you’ll quickly find out why regulated Michigan online casinos are the only place in the state to play safely.
Michigan problem gambling support
Gambling is supposed to be fun and a source of entertainment. Unfortunately, for some, it can become a problem, leading to financial difficulties, strained relationships and employment and health issues.
The state of Michigan is committed to helping those who face gambling problems and is enlisting the help of Michigan online casinos in this effort.
In fact, online casinos are required by law to provide customers with information on support for problem gamblers, and the state already committed $500,000 annually from online gambling taxes to problem gambling programs.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services runs a problem gambling resource website
Other state resources for problem gamblers include the Michigan Problem Gambling Helpline, which can be reached at 1-800-270-7117.
This is a toll-free, confidential, one-on-one helpline offering assistance and support for gambling addiction by trained and experienced counselors 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Other problem gambling resources available through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services include:
- Health Management Systems of America Gambling Treatment Program
- Gamblers Anonymous
- org (National Foundation for Credit Counseling)
The Michigan Gaming Control Board also maintains the Michigan Disassociated Persons List, allowing problem gamblers to request that they be barred from licensed casinos. Application information is available by calling 1-888-223-3044.
Overview of Michigan’s casino industry
Michigan has had gambling since the early 1930s, when horse racing and pari-mutuel wagering was launched in the state.
Then, in May 1972, a second form of gambling came to the state when voters approved a constitutional amendment establishing the state lottery. Then-Gov. William Milliken made the Michigan State Lottery legal in August of that year.
In 1996, Michigan joined one of the first multi-state lottery games, called “The Big Game.” The Big Game became Mega Millions in 2002.
Nonprofit organizations have been able to run licensed bingo games, millionaire parties, raffles and charity games since the early 1970s.
However, true casino gaming did not come to Michigan until 1993. That’s when the first tribal casino was opened by the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe in Mount Pleasant.
The original compact between the tribe and the state saw the tribe hand over 2% of its winnings distribution in the spring of 1994. The amount was $531,763. By 2007, the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe was handing over more than $3.6 million annually to the state.
These days there are 23 tribal casinos across Michigan, all running under tribal-state gaming compacts that require the tribes to pay the state 8% of each casino’s net win on electronic games of chance and 2% to local municipalities.
Other than that, the state of Michigan and the Michigan Gaming Control Board have no regulatory authority over tribal casinos.
In November 1996, Michigan voters approved a proposal authorizing the launch of three licensed casinos in Detroit.
The Michigan Gaming Control & Revenue Act was signed into law in 1997 authorizing the opening of the three Detroit commercial casinos.
The Greektown, MGM, and Motor City casinos are now open, and each is governed by the Michigan Gaming Control Board.
Finally, in December 2019, lawmakers legalized online gambling, sports betting, fantasy sports and online poker in Michigan. Existing tribal and commercial casinos have been invited to apply for the first licences.
Retail sportsbooks opened in Michigan with Detroit’s three casinos opening them in March 2020.
The first online and mobile sportsbooks, online casinos, and online poker sites should launch in 2020, possibly in October.