Michigan Tribal Casinos Enter Sports Betting and Online Gaming Agreements

Pictured: William Hill Sportsbook Tropicana, one of the largest sportsbooks in Atlantic City. A Michigan Tribal casino has partnered with William Hill to bring sports betting to its two casinos.

The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians (GTB) has entered into a long-term partnership with London-based bookmaker William Hill to bring sports betting to its Northern Michigan gaming attractions: Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel and Leelanau Sands Casino & Lodge.

“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.

GTB looks forward to having its main sports betting attraction (Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel) and its satellite operation (Leelanau) actively accepting bets ahead of the 2020 football season that commences September 10th. 

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.”

When Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed sports betting and Internet gaming into law on December 20, 2019, Michigan became the 20th state to legalize sports betting and the fifth state in the nation to legalize online casino games. 

READ MORE: Gov. Whitmer Signs Bills, Michigan Enters ‘Modern Era of Gaming’ 

Shortly after Gov. Whitmer inked her signature, the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians Gaming Authority entered into a partnership with global iGaming leader The Stars Group (TSG) with the intention of coming online as Michigan’s first iGaming operator. TSG is working to secure a license and regulatory approval from Michigan.

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

Meanwhile, Michigan’s Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians recently 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’s online licenses. The agreement entails online casino gambling. A press release confirms that PointsBet and LVD are also in negotiations concerning the operation of 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.”

While the 2020 football season creates a clear timeline for many venues to debut their retail sports books, March Madness is also quickly approaching on March 17. Many commercial casinos across the state are diligently working to introduce their brick-and-mortar sportsbooks to draw the basketball tournament rush. 

Michigan’s 24 Tribal casinos have the right, under state law, to commence operations immediately (with National Indian Gaming Commission approval), according to Michigan Gaming Control Board Executive Director Rick Kalm. “They have their own gaming boards and they have their own approval process, and I believe several of them are working with suppliers for their sports book,” he said.  

Considering fans will no longer need to turn to offshore sites to place their sports wagers, Michigan casinos look forward to substantially increased foot traffic. In coming months, the Michigan Gaming Control Board also anticipates finalizing its rules and regulations for online and mobile betting — something the board expects will launch statewide in early 2021.

The Michigan Department of Treasury estimates that when both retail and online casino games are live that the state will see $19 million in additional tax revenue — by and large funneled to support school aid and first responders.

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