Legal Michigan sports betting is suddenly a very real possibility. The Michigan House Ways and Means Committee passed bill H 4916 by a 10 to 1 vote. A House vote on the bill is expected to pass soon and there is support in the Senate.
The Governor Gretchen Whitmer was formerly lukewarm. She vetoed an iGaming bill last year, but bill sponsor Rep. Brandt Iden changed the H 4916 text before the committee vote to restrict the bill to sports betting only. This change looks to be the sprinkle of magic dust that will see the bill to the end of the legislative process.
Iden thinks that even if the Governor is opposed, the votes are there to override any possible veto.
Even the opposition is broadly in favor of the new law. Minority vice chair Rep. Rebekah Warren was the single no vote on the committee. She said:
“Unfortunately, there are a couple of pieces of this package that are not quite ready yet. … Please hear me saying the goal is to get to ‘yes,’ we are just not ‘yes’ today.”
Sports betting is now legal in almost a fifth of US states. Michigan is now set to join them. The current NFL season will likely end by the time sports betting is launched, but the next NFL season starting Sep. 2020 should be the first for legal Michigan sports betting.
There’s a lot involved in modern sports betting, so here’s a complete guide to how it will all work and how sports fans can get started betting on their favorite teams.
The proposed sports betting law will allow both live and mobile sports betting
The new law proposes that sports betting take place at the three licensed casinos in Detroit. It also requires the Governor to renegotiate the tribal compacts to permit sports betting at tribal casinos.
“This state, acting through the governor, at the request of any Indian tribe, shall negotiate and may conclude and execute any amendments to an Indian tribe’s compact necessary to effectuate internet sports betting by the Indian tribe under this act, and to ensure internet gaming conducted by any Indian tribe is in compliance with this act.”
The Governor gets 60 days after a tribal request to authorize sports betting.
Both live and online, including mobile sports betting are included in the bill.
Tax rates are a sticking point for the Governor who wanted 15 percent. The bill offers 8.75 percent plus a Detroit tax of an additional 3.75 percent making 12 percent in total. That’s competitive with New Jersey, well above the 6.75 percent in Nevada, but well below the punitive 36 percent on the books in Pennsylvania.
License fees are also manageable. There is a $50,000 application fee, a $100,000 licensing fee, and a $50,000 annual renewal fee. In Pennsylvania casinos have to pay $10 million for a sports betting license!
Unusually there are provisions for using only official sports betting data
One unusual requirement is that sports leagues can request that operators use “official sports betting data.” This is something the leagues have campaigned for in other states but haven’t been able to get support to introduce.
There are a range of get-outs for the operators: the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) has the final say:
“If the board determines that official league data is necessary and appropriate to determine the result of a tier 1 sports bet, an operator shall use only official league data to determine the result of the tier 1 sports bet unless the operator can demonstrate to the board that the sports governing body or an entity that is contracted with the sports governing body cannot provide a feed of official league data to the operator on commercially reasonable terms, as determined by the board.”
Online casino games and online poker are not going to get legislative support as quickly as sports betting. Iden is a passionate champion of offering a full range of internet gambling options, but he faces too much opposition.
When will Michigan sports betting start?
Start dates are an open question. The new law should go through before the end of the 2019 legislative session. Then it is up to the MGCB to get its act together and ensure a fair licensing process is in place. The bill gives the MGCB a maximum of one year to get the regulations in place.
In Pennsylvania this took a long time. In Indiana the procedures raced through. Michigan will probably be somewhere in the middle with a three to six month period necessary.
After that it’s up to the casinos. The three Detroit casinos need to create a sports betting space. Typically this involves betting windows, sports betting kiosks, fancy seating and a forest of huge screens.
The technology implementation is doable very quickly and the casinos have now done it before in their other properties. Either way, they can work while they are following the license application process. A launch within weeks of obtaining a license is possible.
Add it all together and Michigan sports betting should start somewhere between early spring and summer. Tribal casinos can follow on with a maximum of a two month delay.
The Super Bowl is the biggest betting day in the US sports betting calendar. In 2020 the Super Bowl takes place on Feb. 2. That would be a great start date for Michigan sports betting, but sadly it is unlikely that everything can be set in bureaucratic stone before then.
Where will I be able to make legal sports bets?
There are three state licensed casinos in Michigan, all in Detroit. The law restricts sports betting to licensed casinos although they may partner with a sports betting operator to provide their services.
Each casino may only partner with one sport betting brand, at least in the current draft text of the bill. In other states casinos may partner with multiple brands, so this is an area of the law that may change.
The three Detroit casinos are:
Greektown Casino Hotel
The Greektown Casino is operated by Penn National. Penn owns casinos in its home state of Pennsylvania as well as other states and is already in the sports betting market.
Penn’s primary partner is William Hill which took the first legal sports bets in Pennsylvania in November 2018. It is also partnered with DraftKings, PointsBet USA and The Stars Group which trades using the FoxBet brand.
Technology provider Kambi runs the company’s own branded sports books both live and online.
There is no doubt that Penn will want Greektown to be the first casino to offer both live and online sports betting in Michigan.
MGM Grand Detroit
MGM is one of the biggest names in Las Vegas and it has casinos in many locations in the US. The company is partners with the UK’s GVC for its online gambling in the US. The joint venture is called Roar Digital and uses the playMGM and betMGM brands.
The company has sports betting operations in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and is set to expand to as many states as it can where the law allows.
The MGM Grand has just celebrated its 20th birthday after opening in July 1999. The casino has 100,000 sq ft of gaming space.
MGM will be competing with Penn National to be first to market.
MotorCity Casino Hotel
The MotorCity Casino is owned by Little Caesars Pizza billionaire Marian Ilitch. She bought out MGM’s stake in the casino after regulators insisted on the sale.
Ilitch owns the Detroit Red Wings, and Detroit Tigers. She is certainly interested in sports, but sports betting is not so certain.
Apart from the obvious potential conflict of interest, the MotorCity has avoided making public pronouncements on sports betting.
At this stage it’s a fair assumption that the casino will apply for a license, but not so obvious who the casino will partner with to provide the technology.
The conflict of interest was raised when she bought Motorcity, but regulators gave the go ahead. So long as the management of the casino and its sports betting remain at arms length, there is no reason why her team ownership should be a barrier to a license.
Sports betting at Michigan Tribal Casinos
Michigan is home to around 20 tribal casinos. The new law makes it possible for them to offer sports betting but without the 3.75 percent Detroit sports betting tax.
Theoretically that should give them a competitive advantage. In practice it is likely to make little difference. Not all will take on the sports betting opportunity, but several will. Expect announcements of sports betting partnerships as soon as the ink on the final bill is dry.
What they will do is add more brands to the market. If the Detroit casinos can only put three online brands out there, the tribal casinos can make up the difference.
Michigan’s population is a little higher than New Jersey. There are an astounding 17 sports betting brands in the New Jersey sports betting market. There is no reason to think Michigan can support less.
Mobile sports betting
In New Jersey, over 80 percent of sports betting is now conducted using mobile devices. That is a staggering percentage of bets placed. It emphasizes how important it is for Michigan to keep mobile sports betting in the current bill.
The good news is that moves to restrict sports betting to casino floors don’t appear to have the support they need. Mobile and online sports betting should come to Michigan at the same time as or shortly after the casinos launch live sports betting.
With mobile available you will be able to place your bets anywhere within state borders.
How old do I have to be to place sports bets in Michigan?
The three Detroit casinos has a minimum legal age of 21 for all casino gambling. The tribal casinos are on sovereign territory so they set varying minimum ages. Some have chosen 18, some set the age limit at 21.
OK, when Michigan sports betting is legal how do I begin?
Typically sports betting starts first on the casino floor. When the technology is in place, and the regulator signs off, sports betting can go mobile.
The first sports betting opportunities in Michigan will probably be live so a visit to a casino is necessary. As tribal casinos will probably launch after the Detroit casinos, a trip to the big city will be the only way to get in on the early action.
When online does start, sports betting will be a lot easier and more accessible.
Step one is to open an online account. Most sports betting apps are available through a browser interface, but for mobile betting users must download the relevant app.
So far this is easier with Android devices. Apple’s prohibition on unlicensed gambling apps is admirable, but it is only now getting to grips with the regulated US market. By the time mobile sports betting is available in Michigan the issues should be behind us and iPhone addicts will have easy access to apps.
Account opening is easy. Simply submit your personal details using the online form; choose a screen name and password and you are ready to go.
Check back here to see which casinos have launched with which operators. We’ll be putting up reviews as soon as it all happens.
How do I make a deposit?
Of course before placing a bet you need to fund your account. With legal sports betting operators this is safe and simple. The casinos will ensure that there are many ways to deposit and withdraw.
Methods in use in other states include:
- Bank cards–Debit and credit cards are both commonly available. Visa and Mastercard are standard and some operators accept American Express and/or Discover cards.
- Prepaid cards—Many casinos and other payment providers offer pre-paid cards. The three main casinos are all likely to offer their own branded versions with additional benefits for making deposits.
- Bank transfers–You can use e-checks (ACH transfers), and pre-verification makes these very quick. Bill pay can also work but your bank may or may not permit the facility. Wire transfers are best for depositing large amounts.
- Electronic wallet—Big e-wallet brands include PayPal, Skrill and NETELLER. After setting up an online account these services offer seamless deposits and withdrawals. You can deposit from an e-wallet instantly. Withdrawals can be equally fast, or you can use the associated pre-paid card to make purchases or withdraw cash from an automated teller.
- Cash—There are two ways to fund your online account with cash. The casinos will accept deposits on site at the cage, or you can use a third party provider such as PayNearMe. Local 7/11 stores almost all offer PayNearMe services.
- Check or money order—People are moving away from checks but they are still popular with many and can be used to fund your online sports betting account.
How do I withdraw my winnings?
Not all deposit methods can be used to withdraw your winnings, but the casinos will ensure that as many as possible are available.
In most cases your money can be returned to you virtually instantly. Delays of a few hours to ensure transactions are properly authorized are normal.
This is a complete contrast to the situation at non-state regulated sites where withdrawing cash can take days or even weeks.
Easy financial transactions and security for your cash are major benefits of the state regulated sector. If you are placing bets at an offshore site, do remember to switch to the legal sites as soon as they are available.
Can I use my casino VIP scheme online?
Regular players at any of the Michigan casinos will know all about the casino VIP schemes. These offer benefits based on how much players play. For high stakes and regular players the benefits can be very valuable ranging from free parking through to free rooms and meals.
The online operators shortly to arrive in Michigan do very much the same sort of thing. They work quite simply. When you bet you earn points proportional to the amount you bet and your status in the VIP scheme.
Points can then be exchanged in an online store for benefits including merchandise, extra bonuses or free bets. Free bets are just as they say; the online operator gives you a free bet on a game. If you win, you keep the winnings, if you lose, no money comes out of your account.
Over time, these can add up to a lot of money, so don’t ignore them even if you are a recreational bettor wagering at small stakes.
Given the close relationship between the online operators and the casinos merging the two schemes is a win-win.
M Life Rewards from MGM is a great example
At the MGM Grand Detroit customers join the M Life rewards scheme. When the casino launches online sports betting under the playMGM brand, sports bettors will have their own VIP scheme that connects directly with the existing M Life scheme.
In New Jersey the online and live casino schemes are almost completely integrated. MGM VIP points can be redeemed for:
“Express Comps at any MGM Resorts destination nationwide and use them to book your next hotel room, enjoy our fine dining restaurants or see a show at our entertainment venues.
Bonus dollars or for more cash to use on blackjack or online poker tournaments.
Accessories, electronics and other online store items.”
Michigan will be slightly different given there is no online poker, but the principles will be the same.
Michigan players accustomed to playing at the Caesars resort across the border in Canada will be members of the Caesars Total Rewards scheme. These benefits are not interchangeable in Michigan since Caesars doesn’t operate a Michigan casino.
It is possible that Caesars might get involved in the future if it partners with a tribal casino and launches its own online sports betting.
Can I use my online account outside Michigan?
Michigan gambling laws only apply inside the borders of Michigan. If you have an account with an online sports betting operator in New Jersey, you can’t use that account to play in Michigan, and vice versa.
The second you step across the state border you will find that you may no longer place sports bets online. This is because the operators use sophisticated geo-location technology that knows exactly where you are. Of course any bets placed before you cross the border remain valid.
The big name operators are introducing methods to make it easy to sign up for accounts in different states. If you do have a New Jersey or Pennsylvania online account, then if your operator launches in Michigan, you will probably find it even easier to open your new account.
Will the Michigan sports betting odds be competitive?
Betting odds are largely the same across all jurisdictions where sports betting is legal—so far! Legal sports betting outside of Nevada is in its infancy. Operators are still in hyper competitive mode as they seek to establish market share.
As the market matures and operators learn the characteristics of their home markets better. then odds might begin to differ between states. Partly this will be due to the additional costs of operating in high tax states like Pennsylvania. On the other hand, operators will learn to provide lower odds for promotions on games that are particularly popular in Michigan.
Fortunately the current bill has reasonable license fees and taxes so Michigan sports bettors should get access to odds as good as anywhere in the country.
Odds that are too far out of whack with the broader market will simply drive customers back to illegal offshore sites. The casinos have no incentives to offer poor odds in Michigan.
What sports can I bet on in Michigan?
The sports betting bill gives regulatory powers to a new sports betting division of the MGCB. The law text itself doesn’t specify a list of sports so the final decision on whether you can bet on any particular game will be down to the MGCB.
Some jurisdictions do specify the sports, so Michigan is off to a good start. The MGCB is likely to impose some restrictions although these will probably be to do with college sports involving local teams.
In other sports betting states the list of sports offered by the sports betting operators looks something like this:
- Auto Racing
- Mixed Martial Arts
- Track and Field
For the minor sports betting is only offered on major competitions. For example the Rugby World Cup or in golf the Ryder Cup.
Nevertheless, there will be more than enough opportunities to bet on the top US sports. And there are many ways to place your bets.
What types of sports bets can I make in Michigan?
The bill before the legislature does list examples of the types of bets that can be offered. The list is not exclusive, so other bets may be available. The law states:
“Sports betting includes, but is not limited to, single-game bets, teaser bets, parlays, over-under, moneyline, pools, exchange betting, in-game betting, in-play bets, proposition bets, and straight bets…”
For those following sports betting legislation with a forensic eye, this list is a straight copy and paste from the list in the Illinois legislation that passed a few weeks ago.
A short explanation of the most popular bet types is:
Moneyline bets are the easiest bets and the most familiar to the general public. When you place a moneyline bet, you are betting on which team will win.
E.g. You see that the moneyline odds on an NFL game are quoted at -150 for team A and +120 for team B.
The minus sign means you have to bet that amount to win 100. So in this case you have to bet $150 to win $100. The plus sign means you have to bet that amount to win $100. In this game you need to bet $120 to win $100.
A single-game bet is made on one sports event or game. The bet can be on the points spread or who the winner will be, but it remains a bet restricted to one match.
A teaser bet allows the bettor to combine bets on two different games. The normal format enables the bettor to adjust the point spreads for each of the game. Of course this results in better chances of winning, so the operator adjusts the odds accordingly.
Parlay bets tie several bets together so that the bettor only wins if every prediction is correct.
If you bet on five matches as a parlay bet, then you have to pick the winners for all five to win your bet. Even if you predict the first four correctly and only lose the last leg of your parlay, you lose the whole bet.
Parlay bets offer the chance to win a large sum for a small initial wager. They are enormous fun and extremely popular, but the big payouts come because the chance of winning is small.
Over-Under bets are also known as Totals bets. In an over-under bet you predict the total score of both teams added together. The sportsbook quotes a line where it expects the total score to be and the bettor takes either the over or the under.
A straight bet is a type of wager where you bet on a single game that carries either a point spread, a total or a money line.
To win a straight bet you must bet on the team that covers the spread or if the two teams cover the over or under.
In pool betting bettors pay a fixed price into a pool and select what they think will be the winning outcome. The pool is shared between all bettors who made the right prediction.
There are no odds quoted, and the pool may be on something like the Ryder Cup, or who will win the Super Bowl.
Not all the money is paid out. The sports betting operator takes a small percentage as its fee for running the pool.
Betting exchanges are very popular in Europe. In a betting exchange every wager is made against another bettor rather than the house. The exchange matches the bets that customers want to make with another customer who wants to take the other side of the bet.
This operates like a stock exchange that matches willing buyers with willing sellers.
In-game wagering & In-play bets
The fastest growing segment of the US sports betting industry is in-play betting. These are bets on a game made after the match has started.
They rely on timely accurate data that is only available to regulated legal sports betting providers. This means that illegal offshore sports betting sites cannot offer any competition to the legal in-game betting of regulated operators. If you currently bet at an offshore site, in-game betting is a great reason to change, as soon as Michigan gets legal sports betting up and running.
In-game bets provide much more fan engagement than old-fashioned sports betting. Bettors can wager on a whole range of events from what the score will be at the next break in play, to who will score the next touchdown.
Proposition bets, or prop bets allow bettors to bet on possible events in a game. The events may be specific to the game or to an individual player in the game.
Online operators present a series of prop bets based on what they think will most interest their customers. A typical prop bet may be that a specific player will hit a home run or score a goal during a game.
Bettors can also wager on things like what the points spread will be at the end of each quarter or what the total score might be at half-time.
Will Michigan allow bets to be cashed out early?
The almost instantaneous availability of sports betting data enables legal sports betting operators to offer much that was previously impossible. One great innovation is the ability to cash out bets early.
Since sportsbooks can calculate the expected value of you bet minute by minute, they can offer to let you take your winnings or cut your losses before the final outcome is known
Of course you don’t get all your winnings. And you can’t avoid all your losses. When you cash out a bet early, there is still a possibility of the result changing. The operator calculates a fair payout based on the odds and you are free to accept or reject the offer.
The law doesn’t mention these types of bets, but there is no reason for the regulator to forbid the facility. They are very popular in other sports betting states.
What companies will be offering sports betting?
The partners for the MGM and Penn National operated casinos in Detroit are known. The tribal casinos that get into the market have yet to announce their preferred partners.
Big international and US names you can expect to see in the market include:
- Caesars Sportsbook
- FOX Bet
What other forms of internet gambling will be available in Michigan?
The sports betting bill is a companion bill to another bill sponsored by Rep. Brandt Iden. The second bill aims to legalize iGaming including online poker and online casino games.
Unfortunately that bill doesn’t look like it will pass. Online poker fans must watch the success of sports betting and hope this triggers some legislative enthusiasm.
Limiting legalization to sports betting is not particularly rational. In European jurisdiction where online gambling is legal the experience shows that a wide range of legal betting options correlates closely with the level of gambling at unlicensed sites.
Put simply, if players don’t have a legal option they gamble illegally.
All the major online DFS operators accept fantasy sports customers from Michigan
What about Michigan gambling taxes, do I have to pay them?
The gambling taxes set out in the legislation are the responsibility of operators not sports bettors.
Any winnings from sports betting are normally taxable as income.
What do I do with my offshore online account?
If you have an account offshore, our advice is to get your money back to the US as soon as possible. Sports betting at unlicensed offshore operators is inherently risky. There is no legal redress if anything goes wrong.
Not only can games and odds be rigged, but the owners could be engaged in money laundering or organized crime.
Who is the Michigan regulator if I want to complain?
Gambling in Michigan is regulated by the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB).
If you have any problems with legal sports betting at a Michigan licensed casino or online operator you can contact the MGCB for advice and assistance.
Michigan Gaming Control Board
3062 West Grand Boulevard, Suite L-700, Detroit, MI 48202-6062
Phone: 313-456-4100 Fax: 313-456-4200
Office Hours: Monday thru Friday 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Why is state regulated sports betting suddenly legal?
In May 2018, the Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). This act effectively prohibited states from introducing legal sports betting unless it was already specifically legal—as in Nevada.
The court ruled that the act breached states rights under the 10th amendment. Thereafter, states suddenly recovered the freedom to set their own sports betting laws.
New Jersey was first to the off, and there are now 17 states with legal sports betting of one form or another.
Michigan will shortly join them!