First Sports Bets Cast at Michigan Casinos, Tribal Sites Not Live Yet

Australian sports betting firm PointsBet is partnered with the Lac Vieux Desert Band to bring online sports betting and casino gaming to Michigan. The parties are also negotiating terms to launch a retail sportsbook at Northern Waters Casino Resort. Pictured: PointsBet Sportsbook at Catfish Bend Casino in Iowa

Onsite sports betting debuted March 11th in Michigan — a state teeming with 24 Tribal casinos —  in time for the start of March Madness on March 17. So far, just three Detroit-area commercial casinos, MGM Grand, MotorCity and Greektown, have introduced in-person betting, operating under temporary licenses — issued by the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) with the intent to get sports betting up and running ahead of the NCAA college basketball tournament. That is until the MGCB can complete more thorough investigations of the sports betting operators to issue official licenses. 

Tribal casinos in Michigan don’t require state licensing, just National Indian Gaming Commission approval — but their online offerings will be subject to state regulations. 

MGCB is in the process of drafting rules to govern sports betting, particularly for the online market. “The casinos are very mature over 20 years they’ve been operating,” MGCB executive director Richard Kalm told, “but on the online side, it’s a very new process. We really want to take our time and make sure we get it right.” 

Currently, just three of 24 Tribal casinos throughout the state have entered sports betting partnerships. It appears their online sites to cast wagers, and potential brick-and-mortar sports betting kiosks, will be up and running in time for the 2020 National Football League (NFL) season. With so many Tribal casinos across Michigan, more partnerships between Tribes and iGaming/sports betting operators are likely to come.

The Star Group + Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians

On January 6, 2020, just a few weeks after Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer put her signature on the state’s bill regulating sports betting and Internet gaming, the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians Gaming Authority announced its partnership with global iGaming leader The Stars Group, Inc. (TSG) to introduce online betting and gaming. 

READ MORE: Odawa Indians Partner With The Stars Group to Bring Gaming Online in Michigan 

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“The Tribe’s partnership with The Stars Group extends beyond our reservation and places the thrill of world class sports betting and online gaming under every finger-tip sliding across a touch screen in the State of Michigan,” said Fred Harrington Jr., a member of the Tribal Council for the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians. 

One of three federally recognized Tribes of Odawa people in Michigan, the Little Traverse Bay Bands operate two properties in Michigan, anchored by Odawa Casino Resort near Petoskey, on the northwestern shores of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The gaming authority will receive a cut of TSG’s online revenues in return for providing market access.

William Hill + The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians

William Hill will operate sports betting at the Onyx Sports Bar at Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel and a satellite location at Leelanau Sands Casino. The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians (GTB) inked a long-term partnership with London-based bookmaker William Hill to bring sports betting to its Northern Michigan gaming attractions. Both venues are expected to start taking bets by the start of the 2020 football season that kicks off September 10. 

“It was important for us to find a partner with a great sports betting and gaming brand that has proven experience throughout the U.S. market,” said Michael Schrader, CEO of Grand Traverse Resort & Casinos.

William Hill U.S. CEO Joe Asher underscored that Michigan is “a key state” in the company’s United States expansion, “due to its large population and deep rooted-sports culture with so many popular college and pro sports teams.”

PointsBet + The Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians

The Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians has inked a 20-year agreement with PointsBet, with the option for a five-year extension, to offer an online and mobile PointsBet-branded sportsbook through LVD. The agreement entails online casino gambling. 

PointsBet and LVD may also open a retail sportsbook at the Tribally owned Northern Waters Casino Resort in Watersmeet, Michigan.

PointsBet CEO Sam Swanell expressed enthusiasm about partnering with “such a forward-thinking Tribe” as they look forward to “many years of great success working together in Michigan.”