After launching in-person sports betting in March, and the online gaming supplier licensing process in May, the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) has now signed off on provisional licenses for 15 platform providers to support both commercial and tribal casinos’ online gambling and sports betting offerings in the state.

Up to this point, the MGCB has been unclear as to whether the state’s online sports betting and iGaming markets would launch prior to the end of 2020 or in 2021. However, it appears we have gained some clarity as the regulator’s website now lists “early 2021” as “target dates” for the launch.

Successful applicants:

The provisional licenses issued Thursday include:

Licensing process:

Executive Director for the MGCB, Richard S. Kalm said

“The MGCB now can approve provisional licenses following the filing of the administrative rules for online gaming and sports betting Dec. 2 with the Office of the Great Seal.

“The platform providers still must meet other regulatory requirements before online gaming and sports betting can launch in Michigan. The launch date will depend on how quickly they can fulfill the requirements.”

In December 2019, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a bill to legalize sports betting and internet gambling, but the process to receive rules approval and necessary legislative endorsement has been arduous. And while the MGCB had hoped to launch online gaming before the end of 2020, with other states such as Indiana able to expedite their rulemaking processes, according to Legal Sports Report citing MGCB leadership, Gov. Whitmer instructed that emergency rules not be used to expedite the process as the rules for online gambling did not meet the state’s criteria for an emergency.

Before online wagering can begin in Michigan, additional regulatory requirements must be completed by all platform providers. Those requirements include the independent testing of platforms and games, and to ensure gaming integrity, securing regulator approval for their internal controls.

Kalm explained…

“The platform providers’ ability to meet the requirements of the laws and rules will determine which entities can be licensed for launch first.”

As mentioned, the MGCB began the online gaming supplier licensing process in mid-May. And while the agency has allowed platform providers and operators to launch apps prior to launch – and Michigan residents are able to create accounts and download those apps – wagers cannot be placed until launch is granted.

Closings and losses:

Meanwhile, Michigan’s three commercial casinos in Detroit lost millions when an executive order forced them to close from March 16 through Aug. 5 before being allowed to reopen at 15 percent capacity.

An epidemic order issued on November 15, 2020, by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and enforced by the MGCB saw MGM Grand Detroit,  MotorCity Casino, and Greektown Casino close for three weeks from November 18. That order was set to expire on Dec. 8 but as COVID-19 continues to surge in the state, an updated order will close casinos and other entertainment venues through at least December 20.

Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and operating at 15 percent capacity, retail sportsbooks at Detroit’s three casinos had their best October ever, hauling in $7.6 million in adjusted sports gambling revenue. It was a 72 percent increase from the $4.4 million collected in September, the first full month the sportsbooks were open, according to the MGCB.