Michigan Lawmakers Approve Online Gaming Regulations, Launch Could Happen This Month

  • The legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules waived the regulations review period
  • The Michigan Gaming Control Board can now begin accepting applications, reviewing licenses
  • The control board has already begun the process with some third-party providers
  • Online sportsbook and casino operators will likely be the first licensees in the state
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The MGCB can now start accepting online gaming licensing applications after the Michigan legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules waived the period to review regulations. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

“Long overdue”

Nearly a year after Michigan legalized online gambling, it appears that the state is finally close to seeing sites launch. On Tuesday, the state legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) voted to waive the 15-day period to approve internet gaming regulations, putting the ball in the Michigan Gaming Control Board’s (MGCB) court. It is now possible that Michiganders could be able to place their online bets before the end of the year.

Everybody wants to get this thing going.”

In an interview with the Associated Press on Monday, State Senator Pete Lucido said: “Everybody wants to get this thing going. This is something that’s long overdue at this point.”

A gambling expansion bill became law last December, but since then, only retail sports betting has launched. Unfortunately for casinos and betting fans, it did so just days before a statewide pandemic shutdown in March. One senator introduced a bill to allow online operators to launch their services without a license just to jumpstart some economic activity, but nothing materialized from the effort.

Detroit’s three commercial casinos were allowed to reopen in August, but they are closed again because of the recent surge in COVID-19 cases. About half of the state’s 23 tribal casinos have also voluntarily closed.

Licensing must happen quickly

Now the licensing process begins. The MGCB is a little ahead of the game, having already gotten to work testing and licensing technology providers. There is still considerable work left to do, however, to license the actual online gaming operators.

Michigan’s brick-and-mortar casinos are eligible to apply for internet gambling licenses. The difficulty is that there are 26 of them: the three commercial casinos in Detroit – MGM Grand Detroit, MotorCity, and Greektown – plus the 23 tribal operators. Only about half are expected to seek licenses, but that is still a lot of applications to go through, especially if the goal is for sites to launch this month.

an early 2021 go-live date is entirely possible

If the MGCB wants them all to launch at the same time so as not to give any operator first-mover advantage, the task is even more daunting. In this case, an early 2021 go-live date is entirely possible. Some operators believe this is what will happen.

Pecking order

The other thing that remains to be seen is what types of gambling the MGCB will green-light first. From current trends, ease of licensing, and profitability, online sportsbooks and combo sportsbooks/casino apps will likely be the priority.

There are currently seven retail sportsbooks active in Michigan. Since all have already worked closely with the MGCB, it is only natural to expect them to be at the top of the list.

Most sportsbook operators will also likely have casino apps, which is appealing to the MGCB because of their profitability and, therefore, the potential to generate tax revenue.

Though online poker is also legal, one should expect poker sites to lag behind. Testing and approval are more difficult because the player-versus-player aspect of the game lends itself to higher scrutiny, especially when it comes to anti-cheating measures. Poker is also not nearly as profitable as sports betting and casino games.