Sports Gambling In Michigan Soon To Take Off With NCAA Men’s Tournament

Feb 18, 2020

The state’s commercial and tribal casinos hope to open their sports books in time for March Madness – if they can get all the paperwork and logistics settled.

Credit Eric Bach / WKAR-MSU

A new era in sports gambling started in Michigan in December 2019, when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a bill legalizing mobile sports betting and physical sports betting at the state’s commercial and tribal casinos.

The Michigan Gaming Control Board will oversee the implementation of the state’s sports books, but according to Mary Kay Bean, a spokeswoman for the Board, only the casinos in Detroit are subject to regulation from the Board.

“We only have full jurisdiction over the Detroit casinos,” Bean said. “The tribal casinos are technically only subject to Federal law, but they have to go through the same application process as the others.”

For Michigan State students looking to get into sports betting, the two casinos closest to East Lansing are FireKeepers in Battle Creek, and Soaring Eagle in Mt. Pleasant. Both are tribal casinos, meaning that they sit on Native American property.

Dustin Ploehn, is FireKeepers Rewards Club manager and oversees the sports book, was excited about the ruling.

“Very exciting time for us at FireKeepers,” Ploehn said. “The ruling was great news for us and our players, and we look forward to providing the best experience possible to those that wish to bet on sports. We are still hashing out the specifics, but we hope to be up and running very soon.”

This legislation in Michigan comes after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that sports gambling is Constitutional and legally allowable throughout the country in June 2018. The American Gaming Association (AGA) estimates Americans illegally bet $150 billion on sports each year. In 2018, the AGA said 97 percent of the money wagered on the NCAA men’s basketball tournament was bet illegally.   

Bean said that Michigan’s casinos hope to have their sports books operations by this year’s edition of March Madness. However, the application and licensing process is extensive.

“The NCAA Tournament is the goal,” Bean said. “Right now, we are in the process of vetting applications. This process is just like if a casino ordered new slot machines or playing cards, we have to examine and vet all of the equipment to make sure the integrity of the experience is maintained.”

Bean said that each casino will have the freedom to develop their own apps for mobile sports betting.

“The casinos will be able to kind of do their own thing when it comes to mobile,” Bean said. “Of course, all of the software will have to be approved by our Board, but each casino will be a little different.”

Credit Eric Bach / WKAR-MSU

The process of taxing sports gambling is also extensive. In general, the tax rate for sports gambling in the approved legislation is 8.4 percent for in-person bets made in casinos. For online betting, the rate fluctuates between 20 and 28 percent, depending on the adjusted gross receipts.

The tax revenue generated from sports gambling will go to a variety of places. In the Detroit casinos, 30 percent of the tax revenue will go to the city, 65 percent will go to the Lawful Sports Betting Fund, which appropriates a minimum $500,000 per year to the Compulsive Gaming Prevention Fund. Another $2 million will annually go to the First Responders Presumed Coverage Fund, and the remaining tax revenue will go to the State School Aid Fund.

The tribal casino tax revenue will be similarly allocated, with 90 percent of in-person betting money going to the Lawful Sports Betting Fund and 10 percent to the Michigan Strategic Fund. Seventy percent of online betting tax revenue in tribal casinos will go to the State Internet Gaming Fund, 20 percent will go to the local jurisdiction governing body for services, and 10 percent will go the Michigan Strategic Fund.

Overall, Bean is optimistic about the future of sports betting in the state.

“It was time for a change, and we’re going to do our best to do it the right way.”