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Sports Beat content is reported by Sports Journalism students in the Michigan State School of Journalism.

Michigan’s online sports gambling industry is taking off

Deshawn Johnson

The state adopted sports gambling in 2019, and Michigan is now one of the top markets in the country for wagering.

Online sports gambling was legalized in Michigan in Dec. 2019, formally launching in Jan. 2021, with the growth of the industry since being exponential. Outside of Nevada, Michigan has become the largest online betting market in the country, according to the American Gaming Association.

The AGA, a trade group for casinos in the United States, recently released a study explaining the total 2023 revenue from online and in-person gambling. According to the study, Michigan is the national leader in money wagered on iCasino games.

A good portion of that money comes from online table games, such as blackjack and poker, but Michigan also has reported that the state’s sports bettors wagered a total of $420.4 million.

While that is an 18.3% increase since 2022, the total amount wagered on sports compared to online table games doesn’t compare. Michigan gamblers wagered $1.9 billion on different iCasino games not involving sports betting.

These differences in numbers can be attributed to a few different reasons, but one of the largest differences is that sports don’t work year-round in the same way as poker does.

While some season schedules are longer than others, no professional sports play year-round without any kind of off-season. Because of these off-seasons and when they take place certain months throughout the year offer better opportunities for sports bettors to make money than others.

Months like October are huge for sports bettors because there are a multitude of sports going on at the same time. The MLB playoffs are in full swing, the NBA and NHL start their seasons, the NFL is already weeks in, college basketball is starting, and there are also rivalry college football matches in play.

The same goes for the time between March and mid-June, as March Madness is going on, in addition to the NBA and NHL playoffs, and the NFL Draft. But following the midpoint of June there is a huge drop in the amount of games being played every day.

The lack of games affects regular sports fans, who enjoy the amount of games played on a given Sunday, but not in the same way that it could affect sports gamblers and the gambling market.

“After the (NBA) Finals, there really isn’t much to look forward to until the World Series. So that is when I usually take time off from making parlays,” said Yousef Suede, a 29-year-old sports bettor from Michigan. “Some people try getting into other sports, but I find it best to focus on the sports you know and that when you try and force bets it can be hurtful.”

Suede believes that the lack of games during certain months can either be hurtful or helpful depending on what you do during the downtime. Suede prefers to try and make all the bets he can before July hits because of the various games he can bet on in one night.

“I enjoy betting on the sports I know well like hockey and basketball so I love March and April, with March Madness closing out and the hockey and basketball playoffs beginning to start. I find myself betting the most during the playoffs so I would say I bet more than normal during that time,” said Suede.

However, when the NBA and NHL go away Suede, and many other bettors tend to slow down on their bets. According to legalsportsreport.com, the summer months are the worst for Michigan sports betting. In 2023 Michigan averaged a sports handle, the amount of money wagered, just short of $401 million a month. However, from June to August Michigan only averaged slightly above $224 million a month.

With the lack of games being played during the dog days of summer, there is less money to be made for gamblers, but there's also less money to be made for the State, casinos and sportsbooks.

Since fewer people are making parlays throughout the summer months different casinos must find ways to keep people interested in the available betting options. One of the different ways John Ewing, PR manager for BetMGM, keeps people engaged is through the different promotions that BetMGM runs throughout these slow times.

“Promotions are an important way for new customers to try sports betting and they also are a great way to keep customers engaged,” Ewing said. “Such offers allow new and regular customers to bet with both confidence and ease.”

Ewing wasn’t able to comment about how the promotions affect the number of bettors, but Suede feels that these promotions can be a“hit or miss” depending on the night.

“Don’t get me wrong the promotions can be helpful, especially when it basically means free money, but these sportsbooks know it’s a business and a lot of the times the promotions can be risky,” Suede said.

Instead of trying to make, “something out of nothing”, Suede does what he believes many other bettors do and takes the time off. He believes it is the safer option that allows him time to get away from something that can be, “addictive.”

However, when asked if he will be betting again when October, also known as the sports equinox, comes around, Suede simply responded, “Of course I will be, that is when everything gets fun again.”

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