Even through the delays and uncertainty, optimism remained for a potential late 2020 launch of Michigan’s online casino gaming and sports betting markets. But as the end of the year nears, it becomes less likely, resulting in a more realistic launch target of early 2021, according to the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB).
“We estimate four to six weeks, but it will depend on the applicants getting the required information to us,” Mary Kay Bean, communications specialist for the MGCB, said in an email.
Bettors in Michigan received good news last week when the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) waived the required 15 session days for the final draft of the gaming rules to be before the committee. Without the waiver from the JCAR, state officials would have been required to re-submit the gaming rules once again in January with a new set of lawmakers. The 15-session day count would have reset with the new calendar year, and Michigan’s online launch could have been delayed until February.
But with the waiver, Michigan citizens likely won’t have to wait that long to wager on sports and online casinos. The next step for a statewide launch hinges on the final licensing approval for the platform providers and operators wishing to enter the Michigan online market. Each operator and provider is required to submit approval letters they receive from independent test labs to show they are meeting the state’s technical requirements.
Once the MGCB receives the paperwork, it can grant provisional licenses and finish the background checks for each operator and provider, such as DraftKings or FanDuel. This, combined with the platforms submitting their software to testing labs to ensure they meet all the MGCB’s requirements, are the next key steps in Michigan’s online gaming launch.
These required steps give the MGCB an updated timeline of another four to six weeks until the state’s launch. It would put the online release at just over a year since Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a package of gaming bills that legalized sports betting and online gaming.
Sports betting in the state had an abbreviated launch after debuting on March 11 at the three commercial casinos in Detroit. A statewide shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic forced the closure of Detroit’s casinos, and then with no sports leagues going on, there was nothing to wager on.
Michigan’s commercial casinos reopened in August and have been operating at 15% capacity before a second shutdown was imposed on Nov. 18. That three-week shutdown ends Wednesday, but could be extended. Some tribal casinos have continued to operate with more restrictions, while others have followed the state’s lead and shut down.
With the ongoing pandemic and the current shutdown, online gaming and mobile sports betting could be launching at an opportune time for players who wish to wager from the comfort of their homes.