Provisional Online Michigan Sports Betting Licenses Issued For 2021 Start

Written By

Updated on

Michigan sports betting

Michigan is another step closer to launching online sports betting and iGaming, which we now know will begin next year.

The Michigan Gaming Control Board has been a bit wishy-washy on whether its online sports betting and iGaming markets would launch within 2020 or 2021.

It looks like we finally know, as the the MGCB website now lists “early 2021” as the official start. That means there likely won’t be any NFL betting on Detroit Lions football this season considering the regular season ends Jan. 3, though Super Bowl betting does seem likely.

The update came as the MGCB announced provisional licenses for 15 iGaming and sports betting operators.

The sooner online sports betting in Michigan can launch, the better for the state casino industry. The state’s three commercial casinos in Detroit closed their doors, and their retail sportsbooks, Nov. 17 to mitigate effects from the coronavirus.

Michigan sports betting operators get first licenses

The licenses awarded Thursday are just provisional with other requirements needed before launch, Executive Director Richard Kalm said.

“The launch date will depend on how quickly they can fulfill the requirements,” Kalm said.

MI bettors likely not waiting patiently

There’s no reason to assume Michigan’s bettors are simply sitting on their hands and waiting for legal online sports betting.

Sports betting handle for the 16 days in November hit $25.1 million with sports betting revenue of $2.3 million. That clearly shows an appetite to bet since that handle is only from Detroit’s three retail books.

Michigan does see legal online sports betting to its south in Indiana, which again posted record handle and revenue in November. But it’s about a two-hour drive from downtown Detroit to the northeastern tip of Indiana, where bettors would have to go to place their bets legally in the state.

That suggests a lot of handle and revenue could be headed offshore while regulators prepare to launch the legal market.

Why the delay?

Retail sports betting launched in March right before the coronavirus pandemic hit. That wasn’t an option for online.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer instructed the MGCB not to use emergency rules to get the online markets off the ground quicker.

Post-COVID, of course, many in the state wanted to see both online sports betting and iGaming launch as quickly as possible.

The process ground to a halt, though, when rules for both industries were sent to the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules on Oct. 6. The committee waited until Dec. 1 to waive its 15-day time period to work on the rules, though.

The MGCB was hopeful it could still turn around licensing quickly enough for a December launch, but have since abandoned that lofty plan.