March Madness Is The Goal For Michigan Sports Betting Launch

Posted on December 18, 2019

March might bring an extra amount of madness in Michigan next year.

Two team sporting events draw the most excitement for betting: the Super Bowl and NCAA Tournament.

With Michigan’s sports betting bill expected to be signed into law later this week, there likely isn’t time for legal sports betting to start in the state for NFL’s championship game at the beginning of February.

However, Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., who helped bring the sports betting bill to the finish line, tells Legal Sports Report that another six weeks could be enough for casinos to launch retail sportsbooks in Michigan.

“I think Super Bowl would be asking a lot, but I do think March Madness is possible,” Hertel said. “That’s what we’ve all talked about as a goal.”

Michigan loves its college basketball

Like most of the midwest, Michiganders love them some college basketball.

Michigan State, Hertel’s alma mater, and the University of Michigan both are in the Associated Press Top 25.

“Michigan is a big college basketball state, so I think it would be good to start on March Madness,” Hertel said.

The NCAA Tournament begins March 17. Two other states to legalize sports betting this year, Indiana and Iowa, got brick-and-mortar sportsbooks up and running in similar three-month time frames ahead of football season.

Mobile wagering will take longer

March Madness is a worthy goal for Michigan’s three commercial casinos to gain clearance from the Michigan Gaming Control Board to take wagers inside their facilities.

Online and mobile wagering will take longer to be ready. This is typical in many states. While Iowa launched mobile and retail sports wagering at the same time, Indiana took a month longer.

A mobile wagering launch is more complicated than retail, which is more of an extension of what casinos already offer. Launching a mobile application takes getting platforms lab certified and receiving board approvals on many controls and processes, such as geofencing and age verification.

Michigan online casino and poker, also passed by the legislature, provides another complication. The Michigan Gaming Control Board will be dealing with regulating iGaming at the same time as sports betting.

“I think we’ll be able to get brick and mortar up before online,” Hertel said of sports wagering. “Only brick and mortar could be up for March Madness. All they’ll be doing is adding another game to their license. For online, outside operators will need to be licensed and regulations met before they can start.”

Tribes are a wild card for Michigan sports betting

Michigan’s 23 tribal casinos don’t need approval from the Gaming Control Board to begin offering sports betting on tribal lands. These casinos answer to the National Indian Gaming Commission as a regulator.

That makes it possible for a tribe to beat the commercial casinos to launching retail sports betting. They might face less regulatory red tape.

However, some tribes need Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to amend their compacts with the state to add sports betting to the Class III games they are permitted to offer. The Lawful Sports Betting Act provides that the governor has 60 days from the effective day of the law to do so.

Tribes that have already had sports betting added to their compacts might not want to step out ahead of tribes that have not.

And, as seen in Iowa, where tribal casinos have yet to offer sports wagers four months after it launched in the state, tribal casinos don’t tend to move faster than commercial casinos.

For online and mobile wagering offered outside their reservations, tribal casinos will face the same licensing and regulatory structure as the Detroit casinos under the Michigan Gaming Control Board.

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Matthew Kredell

Matthew started his career as a sportswriter at the Los Angeles Daily News, where he covered the NFL, Kobe-Shaq three-peat, Pete Carroll’s USC football teams, USC basketball, pro tennis, Kings hockey and fulfilled his childhood dream of sitting in the Dodgers’ dugout. His reporting on efforts to legalize sports betting began in 2010, when Playboy Magazine flew him to Prague to hang out with Calvin Ayre and show how the NFL was pushing US money overseas by fighting expansion of regulated sports betting across the country. A USC journalism alum, Matt also has written on a variety of topics for Men’s Journal, Los Angeles magazine, LA Weekly and ESPN.com.

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