Analysis

First 15 get Michigan sports-and-gaming nod

Michigan has provisionally licensed its first 15 operators and platform suppliers as the market gears up for launch next year.

Among the top-line operators to have received provisional licenses in Michigan are DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM and Barstool Sportsbook.

In total 15 operators and platforms have received licenses from the state regulator ahead of a launch which even the optimists now admit will be early next year.

Also on the list released late last week by the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) are brands such as BetAmerica, William Hill, Golden Nugget, Fox Bet and Wynn Sports.

Names missing from the provisional licensees include theScore and bet365. It is not known whether there will be further provisional licenses offered ahead of the market opening.

The MCGB said before launch platform providers would need to complete additional regulatory requirements including further games and platform testing.

“The platform providers’ ability to meet the requirements of the laws and rules will determine which entities can be licensed for launch first,” said Richard S. Kalm, MGCB executive director.

Go Wolverines

The launch of both sports betting and online gaming in Michigan, the 10th most populous state, has been much anticipated.

Once Michigan opens it will soar up the Wedge Index. Currently 14th in terms of gaming friendliness, it will soon crash into the top five. 

In this it will be helped by the number of brands in the state that have achieved the top weighting on the Wedge index.

Analysts at Regulus Partners suggest Michigan will reach early maturity very quickly. They forecast it will be worth at least $1bn in annual revenues by the end of next year.

They break down why Michigan is a key state for the industry:

  • It includes online gaming from the off,
  • It is ‘country-sized’ in revenue – equivalent to the size of Sweden,
  • It should be a ‘clean’ state in terms of spend per head – with nothing significant from neighboring states,
  • It has set generous tax rates – sports 8%, gaming 20-28%.

They add that the market has already been “divided up between most of the ‘usual suspects’”.

It means the prospective $1bn market is a “strategic opportunity” only if an operator has access secured. 

“To this extent, the scramble for access deals is logical and justified,” they added. 

Hopes dashed – for now

There had been hopes that Michigan would open up to sports betting and online gaming by the end of this year. 

However, despite a key legislative committee giving the regulations a pass in November, the final rules will not be submitted until the new year.

The pressure to open up to sports betting and online gaming was partly caused by the lockdowns earlier this year. 

The effect on tax revenues from the state’s casinos was marked and wasn’t helped by the second lockdown in November.

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Scott Longley

Scott Longley has been a journalist since the early noughties covering personal finance, sport and the gambling industry. He has worked for a number of publications including Investor's Week, Bloomberg Money, Football First, EGR and GamblingCompliance.com. He now writes for online and print titles across a wide range of sectors.

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