Why It Might Take A Year To Launch Mobile Michigan Sports Betting

Posted on January 21, 2020

Mobile Michigan sports betting could be up by the Super Bowl — in 2021.

While March Madness remains a realistic time frame for retail MI sports betting to launch at Detroit’s commercial casinos, the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) expects the rules for mobile sports betting and internet casino gambling to take a full year.

“We’re estimating it will take about a year to complete the rule-making process for mobile sports wagering and internet casino gambling,” Mary Kay Bean, communications specialist for the MGCB, told Legal Sports Report. “This estimate is based on a review of the timelines for other rule sets and for rules we’ve developed in the past.”

According to MGCB leadership, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer instructed that emergency rules not be used to expedite the process.

“Emergency rules are used on the rare occasions when a department or agency finds a threat to health, safety and welfare, and the governor must concur,” Bean said. “The MCGB is following the regular rule process, which provides opportunities for stakeholder and public input, a public hearing and submission of a regulatory impact statement.”

Mobile Michigan sports betting moving cautiously

Indiana sports betting and mobile wagering started five months after enabling legislation passed.

The neighboring state enacted emergency rules to get sports wagering up for the NFL season. So did Iowa, which launched mobile wagering at the same time as retail, three months after the bill passage.

For the Lawful Internet Gambling Act and Lawful Sports Betting Act, Michigan will take the longer path toward promulgating rules governing online wagering.

“For the new laws, we have to establish several sets of rules and those rules need to pass through many levels of review,” Bean said.

That’s an understatement. There are many steps and agencies involved in the rulemaking process. There are ways for the legislature, state agencies, and departments involved to expedite or delay that timeframe.

Emergency rules could have expedited the launch by putting provisional rules in place without a legislative review, analysis, and regulatory impact report.

March not so mad for Michigan

Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., who helped to reach an agreement on the package of gaming bills, set March Madness as the goal for sportsbooks to open in Michigan once Whitmer signed the legislation.

How might Michigan sports betting be ready to go at Michigan casinos in mere months when mobile takes a year?

This is because of the Michigan Gaming Control and Revenue Act of 1997. It created casino gaming in the state and already gives the MGCB broad authority to authorize gambling games within casinos. The state considers MI sports betting a gambling game just like blackjack or the slot machines already offered in the casinos.

Streamlining for retail sports wagering

Retail sports betting in Michigan doesn’t need to go through a rule-making process. However, since it is a new gambling game, the MGCB must approve some additional internal controls.

With only three retail casinos in the state, that’s not a long process. To launch retail, those casinos need to show the MGCB how they will conduct MI sports betting and who needs to be licensed for them to execute their plan.

The MGCB already began taking applications for companies that casinos need to provide equipment, supplies or services to open sportsbooks. For those, the board will issue provisional licenses to expedite the process.

Internet casino gambling on a similar course

The MGCB will be working on the rules for internet sports wagering and casino gaming concurrently.

There’s enough overlap between the two that the MGCB expects the rules for both to move at roughly the same rate, meaning the online gambling activities should launch around the same time.

The Lawful Internet Gaming Act establishes that a tribe or commercial casino cannot offer internet gambling until one from the other category is licensed.

For retail Michigan sports betting, a tribal casino may be the first entity in the state to launch a sportsbook due to not needing MGCB authorizations.

Implementing official league data requirement

The Lawful Sports Betting Act requires that operators use official league data for in-play wagers if offered at “commercially reasonable” terms.

As the MGCB engages in the rulemaking process, it will hear from various stakeholders about implementing the league data requirement.

Part of that process will be defining “commercially reasonable.” While the legislature did provide some factors to consider and the phrasing also was used in Tennessee and Illinois sports betting laws, there remains a lack of clarity.

Bean explained:

“The act doesn’t define commercially reasonable rates for league data so the MGCB has a duty to define it. We want to create a definition that accomplishes the legislature’s intent and works for the people and entities we will regulate under this law. The MGCB will seek input from stakeholders as we develop the definition, which will undergo public review as part of the rulemaking process. The legislature also will review the definition as part of its examination of the rules we develop.”

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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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