Michigan’s Top 10 Gambling Stories Of 2023: Numbers 5-1

Written By Drew Ellis on December 28, 2023 - Last Updated on January 2, 2024
A top 10 2023 trophy to the left of the PlayMichigan logo

Michigan’s gambling industry wasn’t lacking in big news during 2023.

From new operators, to record revenues and even a strike, the past 12 months have really had it all in this state.

As we close in on the final days of 2023, PlayMichigan wanted to count down the biggest stories of the year.

We started with stories 10-6 on Wednesday and conclude today with our top-5 stories.

Here’s a look at the top Michigan casino-related headlines from the last year.

5. Online sports betting surges to end 2023

We were all pretty convinced that Michigan online sports betting had hit a plateau to end 2022.

The beginning of 2022 saw a record online handle of $496.8 million. It then closed out with three consecutive months at $478 million or greater.

When January 2023 saw a decline to $475.6 million, it was the first sign of things to come. From January-July, online sports betting handle was down compared to the same month in 2022.

Then, football season happened.

The start of another season on the gridiron sent online sports betting in Michigan into a tizzy.

Just from September-November, Michigan has amassed $1.56 billion in wagers. That included new monthly handle records in October ($533 million) and November ($568.8 million).

These past three months have accounted for 38.5% of the yearly handle ($4.06 billion). It has also given the state a chance to match the 2022 yearly handle mark.

Last year finished with $4.55 billion in online handle. If December brings another $500 million month, then online sports betting will have grown in 2023.

4. MGCB ushers out DFS sites, promotional casinos leave

While the Michigan Gaming Control Board was busy attempting to end illegal retail gambling in the state, it also spent 2023 trying to end what it deemed to be illegal online gambling.

That put their attention on two areas, Daily Fantasy Pick’em sites, as well as sites they felt were operating as illegal online casinos.

DFS sites like PrizePicks were banned by the state in October, as they too closely resembled prop sports betting without being licensed.

The sites were offering over/under props on individual players, allowing customers to win money based on a correct guess. PrizePicks returned to Michigan in November with a free-to-play product.

Attorney General Dana Nessel, as well as the MGCB, took aim at stopping “sweepstakes casinos” this year as well.

Both Virtual Gaming Worlds and Golden Hearts Games elected to end operations this fall. Their departure was due to pressure from state regulators and threats of litigation.

Though the operators felt they were legally offering promotional gaming, Michigan regulators felt they violated the Michigan Lawful Internet Gaming Act and Michigan Consumer Protection Act.

3. Operators shuffle around in Michigan

There was quite a bit of operator musical chairs in Michigan throughout 2023.

The biggest change came when PENN Entertainment announced it was cutting ties with Barstool for a blockbuster deal with ESPN.

ESPN BET and Hollywood Casino Online Michigan debuted in the state on Nov. 14. They each showed promising results in the November revenue reports. ESPN BET led PENN to one of its strongest handle totals ever in Michigan as it capitalized on multi-brand promotion through ESPN Networks and media.

PointsBet announced in May that Fanatics would be purchasing its US assets, including its Michigan online sportsbook and Michigan online casino. DraftKings tried to outbid Fanatics at the last second, but Fanatics eventually secured the deal.

Fanatics was hopeful for a 2023 launch in the state, but has settled for a “PointsBet, A Fanatics Experience” label thus far instead. Since the deal, PointsBet has seen its Michigan online casino revenue take off to new monthly records.

Caesars elected to create its own standalone online casino product this year. Caesars Palace Michigan launched in August, helping Caesars become a top-5 Michigan online casino.

Sports Illustrated also launched its online casino product in February, months after SI Sportsbook took over for the departing TwinSpires in 2022.

It wasn’t all about arrivals in 2023, though.

On July 31, Fox Bet Sportsbook ceased operations across the country, including in Michigan. Flutter elected to shutdown Fox Bet and Odawa Casinos has yet to replace it, just operating PokerStars Casino without a sportsbook for the time being.

In August, WynnBet announced it was ending operation in eight states. However, it elected to put its Michigan operations “under review.”

No timetable was given for how long the review in Michigan would take, but WynnBet has seen its Michigan online casino market share dip to end 2023. Its online sportsbook has maintained similar numbers to 2022.

2. Online casino revenue soars to records

While online sports betting was believed to be plateauing for 2023, Michigan online casino revenue certainly was not.

Through 2022, only one month ever recorded over $150 million in iGaming revenue. This year, 10 of the 11 months have surpassed that mark. Only February ($148.2 million) fell short.

March was the first to blow away the online casino revenue record. It brought it $171.8 million. That record held strong until November, when Michigan online casinos brought in $175.3 million.

Through 11 months, Michigan online casinos sit at $1.74 billion in revenue. That has already well surpassed 2022’s yearly record total of $1.58 billion.

As of now, Michigan’s online casinos are 21.9% ahead of last year’s revenue through the first 11 months.

Should the state record $157.6 million in revenue for December, it would get to $1.9 billion in revenue for the year.

Increased revenue leads to more tax revenue for the state. Through 11 months, Michigan’s online casinos have brought in $319.9 million in state tax revenue and $119.9 million in city/local jurisdictions tax revenue.

This year has seen Michigan become the fastest to surpass $4 billion in online casino revenue and $1 billion in tax revenue from online casinos.

1. Detroit casino worker’s strike

Photo of Detroit casino workers on strike for story on what's currently available at Detroit casinos in the strike's third week

The year 2023 brought a first in Michigan’s gambling history as there was a Detroit casino worker’s strike for the first time.

In late September, five different unions that made up 3,700 workers voted nearly unanimously to authorize a strike had a new contract not been reached by Oct. 16.

On Oct. 17 at noon, the workers began picketing the MGM Grand Detroit, MotorCity Casino and Hollywood Casino at Greektown.

The Detroit Casino Council negotiated for the union, representing union workers from:

  • UNITE HERE Local 24
  • UAW
  • Teamsters Local 1038
  • Operating Engineers Local 324
  • Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters

The focus of the union was five core bargaining issues of increased wages, healthcare payments, improved retirement benefits, job security from advancements in technology, and workload reductions.

The strike had a clear impact on the casinos, with all three forced to close down chunks of their gaming floor and sportsbooks.

After a month of striking, a tentative agreement was reached between the DCC and casinos. However, just MotorCity Casino and Hollywood Casino at Greektown employees voted “yes” to ratify the contract on Nov. 19. Those casinos were able to return to full operations days later.

MGM Grand Detroit employees declined the initial agreement and remained on strike throughout November. A new agreement was met and ratified on Dec. 2 to officially end the strike after 47 days.

The striking employees received the following benefits in the new five-year contract:

  • A $3 per hour raise to start, which grows to a $5 per hour raise over the life of the contract
  • No increased health care costs to employees or plan changes
  • A reduction in workloads for housekeeping and other classifications
  • Technology protections that include required training for new jobs created by technology advancements
  • Severance pay and health care for workers laid off by new technology advancements
  • 401k employer match program up to $1,000 in year two
  • Paid Juneteenth holiday

MGM Grand Detroit employees also have an option for a bonus up front on the second year of the contract.

Altogether, the three Detroit casinos lost out on about $51 million in gambling revenue from the strike.

Photo by PlayMichigan
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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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