Detroit Primed for Sports Betting Now, Waiting on Michigan Legislation

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Odds are not looking good for anyone in Michigan wishing to place legal sports bets this year. Caesars Entertainment is bringing sports gambling at four casinos this summer across the U.S., but not in Michigan. Since the May ruling by the Supreme Court, which deemed the previous federal sports betting ban as unconstitutional, individual states have been left to make their own laws and regulations surrounding sports betting.

On Monday, a spokesperson for the Michigan Gaming Control Board, Mary Kay Bean, told The Detroit News that the board hasn’t gotten requests from Detroit’s three casinos to open a sportsbook. She said,

“As I understand it, this is still an issue that the legislature and governor’s office would have to address. Right now, we would have to look at a proposal to see whether it would fit with the Michigan Gaming Control and Revenue Act.”


As of early summer, the Michigan House passed House Bill 4926, which will allow online gaming offered by Detroit casinos next year. The bill works to standardize online sports betting, as long as it is approved by the Michigan Gaming Control Board. The bill will be evaluated by the Senate after returning from summer recess. The bill was sponsored by Representative Brandt Iden, R-Oshetemo Township. He wants to introduce legislation this fall to clarify any regulations around placing legal sports bets in Casinos. So far, there have been no bills put forward that would legalize sport betting in brick-and-mortar locations.

Iden said that the board wants to have the legislature address the issue, to make sure the legislation makes sense, and to get it right. He also wants to ensure that there are no possible conflicts of interest.

Possible Conflicts of Interest in Michigan

One issue that might complicate matters in Detroit is the fact that there are two families who own professional sports teams and casinos. Dan Gilbert owns the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers and Greektown Casino Hotel in Detroit, one of three casino resort hotels in the city. Marian Illitch operates MotorCity Casino Hotel, also in Detroit, one of the other three in the city. Her family owns the Red Wings hockey team and the Tigers baseball team. She says, however, that she has no involvement with the family’s ownership and operation of the Tigers. Those operations are led by her son Chris Illitch, since her late husband passed away.

Changing Attitudes says attitudes about sports betting are changing overall, across the United States. Currently, operators for sports betting in the U.S. are illegal bookies and offshore gambling websites, and it’s a multi-billion dollar market. For states looking for new sources of revenue, the sports betting market is a realistic and ongoing way to bring in money. This is similar to the wave of change in attitude towards land-based gambling and casino operations.

Willing Casinos

Detroit’s casinos are waiting for Michigan’s government to put out clear regulations regarding what’s allowed in the state when it comes to sports betting. Those who live across the border from Windsor are welcome to cross to Caesars Windsor where it is offered and has been for years, but those who want to stay in the country don’t have any options.

Caesars Entertainment announced on Monday that it would start allowing sports bets at two casinos, Harrah’s and Bally’s, in Atlantic City, and plans to have two casinos in Mississippi accepting sports bets by mid-August, at the Horseshoe Tunica and Harrah’s Gulf Coast. Caesars also plans to allow online sports gambling from within casinos inside Mississippi and from anywhere in New Jersey, with technology provided by casino supplier Scientific Games Corp.

MGM Grand Detroit and MotorCity casinos are also welcoming the change in rules regarding legal sports betting and they’re anxiously waiting for the state’s legislature to get things resolved as soon as possible.

Legal Sports Betting in Neighboring States

Michigan only shares a border with Wisconsin, Ohio, and Indiana. None of those three states have passed any legislation allowing sports gambling. Indiana and Ohio have introduced legislation but have yet to pass it into law. It would be highly beneficial for Michigan to get sports betting up and running before the Indiana and Ohio. This could bring in more revenue for the state as non-Michigan residents would be able to travel to Michigan casinos to place wagers.

Just look at Maryland as an example. The state is way behind its neighbors like Pennsylvania and Delaware. Pennsylvania has capitalized on Maryland residents for casino revenue while Delaware has already capitalized on Maryland for sports betting revenue.

Sports Wagering Laws

PASPA, or the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, was law from 1992 through May 2018. PASPA basically made Nevada the only state that was allowed to offer full legal sports gambling. The law was put into place by the federal government in an effort to end gambling-related corruption in professional and collegiate sporting events. With PASPA being struck down as unconstitutional by the SCOTUS decision, individual states can decide if they want to offer legal sports betting and how that will look on a statewide to local level. Congress also has the option to draft and pass a law that will legalize sports gambling at the federal level, but have yet to enter the law making scene.

The Interstate Wire Act of 1961, also called the Federal Wire Act, is current. It prohibits betting businesses from using the transmission of a wire communication to place bets. This law was also drafted in order to suppress organized crime activity in the United States. In December 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice released a legal opinion on the Federal Wire Act, stating that anything outside of sporting events are outside the reach of the act. This essentially legalized the sale of lottery tickets on the Internet. However, this opinion spurred Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware to enact online gambling legislation so those states were already ready to go with online gambling legislation when the SCOTUS decision was passed down.

Michigan Needs to Get on the Ball

For a state that has so many popular sports teams, from professional to collegiate levels, it’s a surprise that they weren’t already prepared to roll out legalized sports betting. Detroit is a city, and a region, that was on the brink of total collapse a few years ago. Although Detroit is not fully recovered, having sports betting in the local casinos will add another source of revenue for this region. Michigan really needs to get moving on this. Football season would’ve been the ideal timeframe for legal sports wagering. Unfortunately, it will most likely be early 2019 before Michigan residents can place sports wagers within state borders.

Rick Rockwell

As a longtime freelance writer, avid sports fan, former athlete, and experienced sports bettor, Rick Rockwell has risen up the ranks at to become the self-professed "King of the Blog" in his first year with the site. ...

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