Unlike so many other parts of the United States, Michigan is not exactly rushing to bring sports betting and casino games to the computers and mobile devices of those within the state who are 21 years of age or older. The Detroit News announced this week that all forms of online gambling will not be available at any point during this year. Now, the expectation is that everything will be set up and ready to go by the early stages of next year.
For would-be mobile bettors, this is disappointing news primarily because so many people were expecting to have online sports betting available for the start of professional baseball and professional football next fall.
Why Are Things Being Delayed?
The reason those in Michigan will have to wait until 2021 in order to place online sports and/or casino wagers is due to the fact that the rules and regulations governing the industry must first be finalized. According to Representative Brandt Iden, who helped push for legalization, the six to eight month timeline the Michigan Gaming Control Board has handed down is nothing out of the ordinary when compared to other states where online sports betting and casino play is already live.
Iden is happy that in-person betting will be available once the weather warms up a bit, but admits that he does not expect to see much in the way of significant tax revenue until online gambling has been set up. He said, “Until we are fully integrated online, I don’t think we’ll be able to capitalize on revenue. But from a consumer protection standpoint, from getting players interested, certainly getting up and going in person is helpful.”
A major part of the delay has to do with the fact that the MGCB is going to be holding public hearings where input from citizens will be heard and considered. Michigan was not like New Jersey and Pennsylvania—states that legalized online gambling without too much trouble—and had a difficult time getting pro-gambling legislation approved in the first place. In fact, the entire process in Michigan began all the way back in 2015. Opposition from casino owners and disagreements over tax rates persisted year after year before the online gaming, sports betting, and fantasy sports package finally reached Governor Whitmer’s desk just a few days before Christmas.
Despite the battle that took place in the lead-up to legalization, it seemed as though casinos could see the writing on the wall. Most Michigan casinos began preparing space for physical sportsbooks long before sports betting was legalized in the state. So while it may not be ideal that sports betting is being rolled out slowly, we can confidently say that operators will be fully prepared for in-person and online traffic the second both are approved to begin.
Barring any massive complications, in-person sports bets should be being accepted in time for the start of Major League Baseball, and online sports betting might come in time for the 2021 NFL playoffs. Of course, at this point, there is a lot of variables that can impact these tentative timelines.