Near The Goal Line: Michigan Online Gambling Could Be Live This Fall

Posted on June 24, 2020 - Last Updated on September 9, 2020

Another day and another optimistic timeline for Michigan online gambling.

As first reported by Online Poker Report, a state regulator said this week that an October launch is realistic for online casinos and mobile sports betting.

A legislator also told OPR he would add Michigan players to multi-state poker pools that are already online in three other states.

These are the latest boosts to the state’s gambling market, which could ultimately become one of the nation’s most robust.

Michigan Gaming Control Board timeline moves up

The Michigan Gaming Control Board has been inching toward the online gambling finish line during the pandemic.

After Gov. Gretchen Whitmer okayed gambling expansion in December, regulators prioritized retail sports betting for a March Madness launch.

Since the pandemic shook the sports world amid the March 11 launch, the new rush is to get iGaming and mobile sports betting to the goal line.

After an initial early 2021 estimate, MGCB Executive Director Richard Kalm said this month he was “cautiously optimistic” about a 2020 launch.

His deputy director took it a step further this week.

Murley: All parties on board for expediting launch

There are hurdles to clear, but at least the stakeholders seem to be on board with moving forward.

That’s according to David Murley, the deputy director of the MGCB, in his comments to OPR.

“Everyone seems to be working toward getting this launched sooner rather than later. I think there’s a general feeling that commercial casinos, tribal governments, the executive branch and many legislative leaders want to move these rules along. Right now, the way we’re moving, the month of October is realistic to get the rules to the legislature and get licensing done as well.”

All the parties came together enough for the new laws, and with budgets being crunched by the pandemic, it’s not surprising that they all feel that sooner is better than later.

Michigan poker players could compete nationwide

More good news for gamblers came this week from Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., a legislator prominently involved in the gambling push.

Hertel said he’s going to introduce a bill to add multi-state pooling for online poker to the Lawful Internet Gaming Act.

Hertel said the omission was an oversight.

“That was a worry about no multi-state slot machines being in effect to compete with the lottery,” Hertel said. “We didn’t mean to include poker. But, moving as quickly as we were, it was one of the things we missed.”

Here’s his proposed language regarding multi-state poker, an endeavor already launched in Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada:

The Michigan Gaming Control Board may enter into agreements with other jurisdictions, including Indian tribes, to facilitate, administer and regulate multi-jurisdictional internet gaming for poker by internet gaming operators to the extent that entering into the agreement is consistent with state and federal laws and if the internet gaming under the agreement is conducted only in the United States.

Hertel hopes to pass the bill in late summer or early fall to catch up with the rule-making process.

Hertel: Proposed Senate bill couldn’t hurt

The East Lansing senator also told OPR that a recent Senate bill introduced by Democratic colleague Adam Hollier to speed up the licensing process couldn’t hurt.

“I appreciate the bill and support the bill,” Hertel said. “But the work here is already being done. I don’t think it’s a bad idea to have something that puts pressure on, but I feel very confident that the regulatory bodies will get this done ahead of schedule.”

Hertel is one of the bill’s nine sponsors, a group that includes two Republicans.

The bill would allow the state’s 15 casino operators to launch online casinos without the full regulatory process.

How online gambling could launch faster in Michigan

OPR explained how the regulatory process could be expedited from the original 373 days laid out by the state’s rule-making process. A revised estimate puts a shorter possible version at 250 days.

Murley told OPR that the launch timeline’s biggest factor is the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules approving final regulations.

It’s a process that can be done in two days if the committee waives its 15-session day review period.

Murley said there’s potential to shave days here and there from the process, maybe as many as three weeks.

Michigan could be Midwest gambling hot spot this fall

The state’s 26 casinos should be open soon, many with new retail sportsbooks like the one opened Monday by FireKeepers Casino. Dacey’s Sportsbook in Battle Creek is the state’s fourth sportsbook and first from a tribal partner.

There’s also the Michigan Lottery and its online offerings, one horse racing track and regulated daily fantasy sports.

By Halloween, Michigan sports fans should have a buffet of sports betting apps to wager on football. The market should mature to more than a dozen brands. For instance, BetRivers joined the fray on Monday.

That’s in addition to online casinos and online poker, with chances to match up with players across the country.

Hertel said he’s betting on more coming soon.

“From talking to the governor and the gaming control board, I feel like good progress is being made,” Hertel said. “If I were to make a bet, I’d put my money on it being available by October anyway.”

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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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