Opinion

Motor city: Michigan’s runners and riders

Michigan is expected to bring forward the launch of regulated betting and gaming to help the state economy and ensure players can gamble safely.

As the number of COVID-19 cases rises in the state, local casinos have been ordered to close down. This is bringing added urgency to getting online gambling up and running in Michigan. 

And while a major marketing battle is expected between the betting brands, casino specialists like Golden Nugget could move ahead while the others compete ferociously on sports.     

Wedge News runs through the betting and gaming brands that will be competing in the state.

BetMGM

The joint venture between british bookmaker GVC, or Entain as it has now renamed itself, and US casino giant MGM has major plans.

The company recently stated it had “a clear ambition to be the leading operator in the US”.

“We have strong momentum already with an estimated market share of 18% across the states in which BetMGM is active.” 

The group operates its online betting license through the MGM Grand casino in Detroit.

GVC/Entain CEO Shay Segev says its experience in risk management, trading and proprietary technology, allied to MGM’s brand recognition and scale, will enable it to take a top spot in Michigan and on a national scale.    

FanDuel

FanDuel is partnered with Detroit’s Motor City Casino.

It has become one of the leading online betting and gaming brands in the country since the PASPA repeal in 2018. 

FanDuel is riding high on the recent news that parent company Flutter would hit $1bn in revenues this year.

It also leads the market in New Jersey, the top state on the Wedge Index for gaming-friendliness. 

The group has a strong heritage in horse racing through its subsidiary TVG and has invested in the Fairmount Park Racetrack in Collinsville, Illinois.

The venue will be renamed FanDuel Sportsbook and Horse Racing and FanDuel will open a retail sportsbook there.  

Fox Bet/PokerStars

FanDuel’s stablemate in the Flutter group, Fox Bet has a high-profile thanks to its brand association with the Fox Sports network.

The media platform will give Fox Bet the kind of exposure competitors can only dream.

It will seek to emulate its UK counterpart Sky Bet with a strategy of consistent and broad media presence to drive players to its website.

PokerStars meanwhile is by far the biggest online poker site in the world.

Even if poker is not as big as it was in its heyday of the mid-2000s, PokerStars is a very strong gaming and casino brand. It will expect to see strong cross-sell of sports bettors into casino.  

DraftKings

Is DraftKings the most well-known sportsbook brand in the country? Possibly.

Its marketing activities and numerous corporate moves have meant repeated headlines in the country’s sports and business pages.

More to the point it is vying to be the number one sports-betting operator in the U.S.

The group’s revenues are growing strongly, although it continues to record losses. CEO Jason Robins is confident the sports betting is only in “spring training” mode and has yet to even reach first inning.  

Barstool Sportsbook

Barstool is another high-profile betting brand, this time thanks to its larger than life CEO Dave Portnoy.

Love him or loathe him, there is no question Portnoy is a very effective frontman.

He attracts players, has very strong social media presence and his (at times dubious) sense of humor creates controversy and interest. This was shown with Barstool’s much-hyped launch in Pennsylvania.

Will Barstool and parent company Penn National Gaming be able to repeat the trick in Michigan?    

William Hill

Caesars Entertainment’s acquisition of William Hill for $2.9bn completes the shift by the UK bookmaker into a fully-fledged U.S.-focused operator.

Caesars’ scale gives William Hill substantial reach across regulated states. The Caesars Rewards program reaches across 55 casinos in the U.S.

William Hill also has strong experience of the land-based sector thanks to its work in Nevada.

The company has also upended recent online-retail trends by overtaking Washington D.C.’s online betting monopoly GambetDC.  

BetRivers

Rush Street Interactive, the betting and gaming platform that operates the BetRivers brand, has been very bullish about its prospects in recent statements.

The group has enjoyed a very strong period of trading in its ‘home state’ of Illinois and in Pennsylvania. It operates the brands BetRivers and PlaySugarHouse respectively.

It has also made a point of keeping a lid on its marketing spend, conscious of the costs of customer acquisition in a highly competitive market.

RSI followed other gambling groups down the public listing route in July as it went public with the SPAC dMY Technology Group.  

Golden Nugget

Golden Nugget owner Tilman Fertitta is another industry boss who listed his gambling group by going “public in a SPAC deal with himself’.

The new company is called Golden Nugget Online Gaming. It is not as focused on sports betting as the other brands on this list but has a strong pedigree in casino.

This should help it compete in Michigan, while avoiding the marketing arms race.

PointsBet

The Australian operator plans to achieve a 10% share of market nationally and has been moving ahead with U.S. expansion plans somewhat under the radar.

PointsBet is active in five other states and plans to achieve a 10% share of the market nationally.

It will be running its proprietary online casino platform in Michigan, which will then be rolled out in New Jersey before the end of the year.  

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Jake Pollard

Jake Pollard is an experienced journalist and editor who has covered the online gaming and betting industry for many years. He has written for the leading media outlets as well as operators and suppliers in the igaming space. His current areas of focus are wide-ranging and include regulatory developments in the US, emerging markets in South America and how European countries are adapting to a decade of igaming regulation.

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