Michigan Sports Betting Will Be Limited To Retail Sportsbooks For Immediate Future

Posted on February 5, 2020

Although the goal for the Wolverine State is still launching legal sports wagering by March Madness 2020, Michiganders shouldn’t get excited about making those wagers from their phones. The state’s gaming commission expects an online sports betting delay to last for at least the rest of this year.

Michigan residents and visitors likely won’t be able to place bets online until the calendar turns to 2021. That doesn’t mean the retail sportsbooks will suffer a delay, however.

Why is there an online sports betting delay in Michigan?

It’s quite common for states that authorize both retail and online sportsbooks to launch their brick-and-mortar sportsbooks first. That’s because it’s easier to draft rules and conduct inspections of those operators.

Michiganders should note that this applies to iGaming as well. Online poker, slots and other electronic forms of gambling won’t go live this year, either.

That situation applies in the Wolverine State as well. Mary Kay Bean, a representative for the Michigan Gaming Control Board, confirmed it.

We’re estimating it will take about a year to complete the rule-making process for mobile sports wagering and internet casino gambling. This estimate is based on a review of the timelines for other rule sets and for rules we’ve developed in the past.

Other states have gotten around these administrative delays by using emergency rules. For example, neighboring Indiana’s online sportsbooks launched just about a month after its retail books went live this way.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer used her authority to prevent her state from doing the same. Bean says that in order for any Michigan government agency to use emergency rules, the governor has to consent to their usage.

Because of the current situation, several parties will now complete their tasks in regard to the regulations for online sportsbooks in Michigan. How well that process goes will determine when those operators go live.

Who is involved in forming the online regulations?

Many various state agencies and the Michigan Legislature will play a part in drafting these rules. That means several departments will review and write the various tenets.

For example, the state has to create rules for the new law’s requirement that sportsbooks use official data suppliers to set in-game bets. To do that, the MGCB needs to coordinate with several parties.

All those hurdles aren’t in the way of retail sportsbooks because the state considers brick-and-mortar sportsbooks part of gambling approved under a 1997 law. Drafting the rules for those operators is comparatively an easier and quicker task.

The MGCB is already at work on that task. It has received license applications from casinos. At least two casinos have already announced partnerships to operate their books.

If the process of forming rules for online operators goes as smoothly, they may start accepting wagers in the Wolverine State early next year. Perhaps Super Bowl LV will make a great launch date for them.

While it may be disappointing for Michiganders that they have to wait, online sports betting is coming to their state. In the meantime, the retail books will do all they can to supply a good product.

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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a freelance journalist who resides in Kansas City, Mo. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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