Michigan is pursuing a more aggressive timeline to have mobile sports betting up and running in October.
The Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) provided an optimistic timeline it is following and even hoping to improve upon to get MI sports betting online more quickly.
“Everyone seems to be working toward getting this launched sooner rather than later,” said MGCB Deputy Director David Murley. “I think there’s a general feeling that commercial casinos, tribal governments, the executive branch and many legislative leaders want to move these rules along. Right now, the way we’re moving, the month of October is realistic to get the rules to the legislature and get licensing done as well.”
Shortest path to Michigan sports betting
The optimistic timeline estimates 250 calendar days for the rulemaking process. Made late last January, this was the agency’s best-case scenario and would depend on a number of factors outside its control, such as action by the legislature.
Publicly, the MGCB made a more cautious projection based on its middle-of-the-road timeline of 373 days. That put the start of mobile sports betting in February 2021, possibly in time for the Super Bowl.
The NFL season is scheduled to start Sept. 10. If the beginning of October is doable, it would have mobile sports betting ready for Week 4 of the NFL slate. Of course, the coronavirus provides an element of uncertainty to sports schedules.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the Lawful Sports Betting Act in December.
“If I thought that things were lagging behind, I probably would be more involved legislatively,” said Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., who was instrumental in getting the legislation passed. “But at this point, I feel very confident that it will be done in a reasonable manner. Obviously, we’d like to make that first week of the NFL season, but I think we’ll be close.”
Pandemic added urgency to mobile push
Retail sports betting launched in Michigan at the worst possible time.
Casinos took their first bets on March 11, the day that the NBA suspended its season after the first player tested positive for the coronavirus. Five days later, Michigan casinos were ordered closed.
As sports get back under way, people might be more inclined to maintain social distance by wagering from home.
Hitting the October goal requires the cooperation of a number of other Michigan governmental entities, including the Department of Treasury, the Michigan Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules, the Legislative Services Bureau, and the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR).
“The money that we are raising from this goes to our schools, our cities and our first responders,” Hertel said. “And they all need help right now, so it’s in all of our interests to get this done as soon as possible.”
Michigan on pace for online sports wagering launch
Murley indicated that rulemaking is running nearly on pace with the optimistic timeline. If everything goes as scheduled from here on out, the MGCB would have rules to JCAR on Oct. 18 and could have licensing for early October.
The MGCB created draft rules and received the first round of stakeholder comments. Next up is receiving approval on the draft rules from the regulatory affairs officer.
The board also began taking applications for supplier licenses on May 15.
Before Michigan can launch mobile sports betting, rulemaking needs to be finalized and go through stages of review. Licensing and background checks need performing. Tribal compacts also need amending to allow for sports betting.
Ways Michigan sports betting timeline can improve
Even in the optimistic timeline, there are opportunities to slash days from the schedule. However, there are also possibilities for delays. For example, the state government’s decision to furlough state employees one day a week to cut costs could add time.
According to Murley, the biggest factor in expediting launch is the time it takes JCAR to approve the final regulations. If the committee waives its 15-session day review period, the process can be done in two days.
But that depends on how session days line up. Members of the House are running for election this fall, which might impact the JCAR schedule. A JCAR delay could push the optimistic timeline back by weeks.
There are also a number of opportunities for days to be shaved off even the optimistic timeline. If all goes well, Murley can envision a three-week improvement.
The MGCB is doing its part by working on a regulatory impact statement while getting the rules into their final form. The proposed rules will soon be available on the MGCB website, giving the public and stakeholders time to review and submit comments and suggestions well in advance of the public hearing.