Michigan To Lose SI Casino, Sportsbook With 888 US Departure

Written By Drew Ellis on March 6, 2024
White car with a SI casino license plate driving out of the state of Michigan. The car is passing under a large blue highway sign that reads

Early Wednesday morning, big news happened overseas that will impact Michigan’s online gambling industry. Britain’s 888 Holdings announced it has terminated its deal with Sports Illustrated as part of an effort to leave the US markets entirely.

That decision will have a big impact locally, where Sports Illustrated Casino Michigan and Sports Illustrated Sportsbook Michigan exist.

SI’s lone online casino product was in Michigan. It first launched in February of 2023 after replacing TwinSpires.

888 cutting ties with Authentic, SI

As part of its efforts to leave the US markets, 888 has ended its partnership with Authentic Brands Group.

That partnership allowed for exclusive use of the Sports Illustrated brand for online betting and gaming. The original agreement was set in 2021 and was to go for 20 years. As part of leaving the agreement, 888 will pay Authentic two separate $25 million payments. One now, and one between 2027-29.

“Our partnership with Authentic has consistently driven strong demand for the SI brand across both consumer experiences and product offerings. A series of record-breaking months for SI Casino has underscored the strength of the SI brand. However, despite these successes, we have concluded that achieving sufficient scale in the US market to generate positive returns within an accelerated timeframe is unlikely,” said 888 CEO, Per Widerstrom, in a press release.

SI Sportsbook is live in Colorado, Virginia and Michigan. Michigan is the only state with an SI online casino.

888 provided no clear timetable for when SI will cease operating in Michigan.

What does 888 news mean for SI in Michigan?

This news today from 888 will certainly have a big impact in Michigan. It means more operator changes are on their way.

It’s possible that SI could find a suitor to purchase their Michigan license, similar to what we recently saw with Caesars purchasing WynnBet’s license in Michigan.

If SI is unable to find a buyer, it will then be doing away with its operations and leaving the state with an open iGaming and online sportsbook license.

According to Sportico, an unnamed Authentic source indicates that the company will seek to distribute Sports Illustrated content on a non-exclusive basis to other sportsbook operators.

Similar to what we’ve seen recently with the partnership between DraftKings and Barstool, Authentic may feel the Sports Illustrated branding still has something to offer the gambling sector without having to operate its own standalone product.

Sports Illustrated hasn’t had a good start to 2024 as a brand in its entirety. Massive layoffs to Sports Illustrated content providers occurred in January following licensing partner, The Arena Group, missing a $3.7 million payment to Authentic. That led to the termination of a 10-year deal that was signed in 2019.

SI with less than 1% market share in Michigan

Sports Illustrated had high hopes of making a splash in Michigan when it took over the license left behind by TwinSpires in 2022.

TwinSpires was the initial online sportsbook and casino for Island Resort & Casino, owned by the Hannahville Indian Community.

Mostly known for horse racing, TwinSpires experienced similar struggles that SI has seen. It elected to end its run in Michigan in the fall of 2022.

Sports Illustrated immediately launched an online sportsbook in Michigan with the Hannahville license in August of 2022. The online casino then launched in February of 2023.

Both platforms struggled to see much success.

In 2023, SI Sportsbook finished with just $13.9 million in online wagers. That was second-lowest of all sportsbooks that finished the year in operation. It registered just 0.3% of the market share in the state as well.

When it comes to the Michigan online casino market, SI recorded $15.8 million in revenue for 2023. That was the lowest total of all 15 operators in Michigan and accounted for just 0.8% of the market share. It finished last in monthly revenue in five of the last nine months.

888 supplies WSOP software

Another aspect of this 888 news that could have an impact on Michigan is its connection to World Series of Poker.

WSOP Michigan debuted in March of 2022 behind the Poker 8 platform, which is software provided by 888.

888 can continue to supply the software to WSOP without it being a real factor in its plans to leave US markets. In this instance, 888 is simply a goods provider and not the operator. Caesars is the owner and operator of the WSOP product.

Should 888 elect to stop supplying its product to WSOP in Michigan, the operator would then look to another company to be its platform provider.

Drew Ellis Avatar
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Drew Ellis

Drew Ellis is currently the Lead Writer of PlayILottery.com. He was the former Lead Writer of PlayMichigan, the No. 1 source for online gambling news in Michigan. A lifelong resident of the state, Ellis has been working in various forms of media since 1998, including more than a decade in the sports betting industry prior to transitioning into US casino markets in 2020.

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