DETROIT – Ever since the United States Supreme Court blew open the doors to legal online sports betting in a landmark decision in 2018 – in which the court ruled that a 1992 federal ban on sports betting in most states violated their state rights – sports betting has undergone a meteoric rise.
Within a mere few weeks of the decision by the Supreme Court, several states, including New Jersey and Rhode Island, rushed to prepare themselves for legalized sports betting. Since then, a number of other states have followed suit and have passed their own legislative frameworks for legalized sports betting to take place within their respective state lines.
As of January 2021, Michigan became the 15th state to fully legalize sports betting within state lines. Importantly, this now also stretches to accepting legal online wagers on sports games, which means that the many hardened sports fans who call Michigan their home finally have some simple laws addressing the rules for sports betting operators in Michigan.
Previously, the situation had been somewhat unclear, as while sports betting within state lines had been legalized when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the Lawful Sports Betting Act into law in December 2019, this applied only to in-person betting. This created a somewhat confusing state of affairs, as many sports fans found themselves disappointed when they took to their computers to place their long-awaited first wager following the passage of the Act.
Unfortunately, despite the momentum that seemed to exist behind the full legalization of sports betting in December 2019, the legislative framework for legalized online sports betting took significantly longer to put together. Following the passage of the 2019 Act, regulators spent a huge amount of time devising rules, various monitoring mechanisms and licensing processes to accommodate online platforms. Although the initial response to the legalization of in-person sports betting was very positive, the shutdown of Michigan’s casinos in response to the pandemic and the ensuing public health crisis meant numbers were significantly below what was first expected. This, perhaps, explains why Michigan legislators and regulators moved so enthusiastically and quickly to regulate and legalize online sports betting.
In January 2021, the Michigan Gaming Control Board finally approved applications that allowed the first 10 casinos and their online platform partners to launch, with a considerable number of additional approvals for online betting and casino platforms expected to come in the coming weeks and months.
In terms of what the rules and regulations for this new online betting environment consist of, there are a number of key aspects you need to keep in mind before you rush off to the nearest computer to place a wager.
Perhaps the most important of these is that the minimum age for online gambling and sports betting is set at 21.
Those indulging in online sports betting do not necessarily need to be registered Michigan residents – they will, however, need to be situated within Michigan state borders when online wagers are placed using either a computer or a smartphone app. So, for example, if an Ohio resident is visiting Michigan for the weekend, they can legally place bets on sporting events, provided they are within the Michigan state lines at the time it is placed.
In terms of the public response to these developments, the reaction has generally been positive. Before becoming fully legalized, industry analysts predicted that the online sports betting industry could generate around $8 billion in sports bets and $500 million in gross operator revenue annually. This was predicted as potentially giving the state of Michigan a $40 million boost, based on tax receipts alone.
With the numbers of the first weeks of legal online betting in Michigan just beginning to trickle in, Michigan looks set to be on track for a sum far greater than this. In just the first 10 days of legal online sports betting, a total $115 million handle was generated – a truly staggering sum in such a short period of time. To put this in context, only 11 live online sportsbooks had been approved at this stage, so the industry still has huge potential for growth.
With all that said, it looks as if the Michigan legislators’ moves to make sports betting as accessible as possible are beginning to pay off. In this regard, the future looks very bright for the sports betting industry in Michigan.
This column was provided by Eric Whittaker.