An Inside Look At Michigan Sportsbooks Just Hours Away From Launch

Written By Matt Schoch on March 9, 2020
Michigan Sportsbooks

DETROIT – Wednesday is the day for sports gambling in Michigan, as legal bets are expected to be made starting at 1 p.m. in Detroit’s three casinos.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed gambling expansion bills into law on Dec. 20, but the Michigan Gaming Control Board is expected to give the go-ahead at its public meeting Tuesday morning for a Wednesday launch at the 21-and-older facilities.

“With just 11 weeks to prepare, MGCB staff worked hard to make the launch of onsite sports betting at the Detroit casinos possible by March Madness,” said Richard S. Kalm, MGCB executive director, in a news release. “The casinos and their suppliers helped us by their timely efforts to share information we needed to authorize the gaming. This new gaming opportunity has been highly anticipated, and we hope citizens will enjoy it and see benefits from additional revenue to both the state of Michigan and the city of Detroit.”

Mobile betting and internet casino operations are expected to come next year, but one domino will fall on Wednesday, just in time for the men’s college basketball Big Ten tournament, which begins Wednesday, and the NCAA Tournament on March 17.

Most college and professional bets will be available right away with a few exceptions, according to Louis Theros, vice president of legal counsel for MGM Grand Detroit.

In accordance with standards expected to be passed by the board, Theros said there will not yet be prop bets available on individual college athletes, nor will international club soccer bets be available right away. There will be no preseason or minor league bets yet available.

Theros said Major League Soccer bets will be available but international club soccer bets will likely come in April or May.

“We’re working very cooperatively with the gaming board and casino operators to make sure we get to expand our offerings to what our customers wanted to bet on,” Theros said.

Michigan’s tribal casinos, which will not be regulated by the MGCB, will announce their sports betting plans at a later date.

Greektown Casino

Greektown Casino appeared mostly ready for business on Friday night, with three ticket windows set up and nearly 20 televisions around the old poker room, which will serve as the temporary sportsbook.

Marvin Beatty, vice president of community and public relations, said a ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place Wednesday shortly before a ceremonial 1 p.m. first bet at the more than 5,000-square foot sportsbook, which also features a bar.

In addition to the betting counters, Beatty said there will be about 20 self-service kiosks throughout the casino floor where bets can be placed.

Though Greektown owners Penn National Gaming purchased a 36% interest in Barstool Sports in January to have branded casinos, Beatty said as of Friday, the facility would be named the Greektown Casino Sportsbook.

Barstool founder Dave Portnoy and other Barstool officials came to Greektown in late February and Beatty said they were given a tour of the facility. Barstool was greeted by a marquee atop the hotel, which said “WELCOME BARSTOOL SPORTS.” While in town, Portnoy also did a One Bite Pizza Review at nearby PizzaPapalis on Monroe Street.

Beatty told Playinmichigan last month that Greektown officials hoped the permanent sportsbook, which is planned for the middle of the casino floor, could be open by the Kentucky Derby on May 2. Beatty said this week the permanent facility may not be completed until later.

“We’re hugely excited for all of those who are anxiously waiting for sports betting in Michigan,” Beatty said. “We think that we’ll be right here to accommodate all their needs.”

The hours for the Greektown Casino Sportsbook are 9 a.m. until midnight Sunday through Thursday and from 9 a.m. until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Greektown Casino was owned by businessman Dan Gilbert, the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, until Penn National bought it in May 2019.

MGM Grand Detroit

Shortly after Friday’s announcement by the MGCB, MGM Grand Detroit already announced its Wednesday celebration of legal sports wagering.

Theros wouldn’t divulge if it would be Whitmer on hand for the first bet, but said the event will feature as yet unnamed Detroit sports legends, politicians and a ceremonial first bet at 1 p.m.

The Moneyline Sports Lounge, which was opened in October, is being rebranded as the BetMGM Sports Lounge and features more than 60 televisions and space for more than 280 people, Theros said. Along with full bar service, there will be two self-service kiosks inside the lounge and 14 video poker machines at the bar.

Spaces can now be reserved in the lounge, with dates such as the NCAA Tournament already filling up for this month, Theros said. BetMGM Sports Lounge will open daily at 9 a.m. with closing time determined by the late sporting events.
Outside of the lounge, 15 self-serve kiosks and seven ticket windows with attendants will be available to take bets. Roar Digital is MGM’s partner for the kiosk installation and also will manage the BetMGM wagering app, which will come later.

On Friday night, MGM was bustling as usual – the casino posted its highest yearly adjusted revenue totals in 2019 with $623.5 million – but large curtains covered up the kiosks and betting windows on the casino floor.

The new BetMGM Sports Lounge sign was already up on Friday, along with a sports ticker scrolling the day’s action.
Theros said Moneyline was packed for the Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury boxing match last month, along with the Conor McGregor fight at UFC246 in January.

“People are already familiar with it, familiar with the space,” Theros said. “So transferring it now to a sportsbook will be seamless for us just because we were a little ahead of the game.”

MotorCity Casino

MotorCity Casino has been the most quiet about its upcoming plans, though Playinmichigan found this week that the Grand River Avenue facility is teaming with FanDuel for its brick-and-mortar sportsbook.

Jacci Woods, vice president of public relations and community affairs, passed along a boilerplate statement from Bruce Dall, president of MotorCity: “As a premier destination for entertainment in Detroit, we look forward to offering sports betting and online gaming to our guests and fans. We are actively exploring this matter with stakeholders to ensure that we deliver a best in-class experience that operates in strict regulatory and league compliance.”

Inside MotorCity on Wednesday, construction continued on what appears to be a two-story sportsbook, replacing the former Spectators sports bar on the ground floor and Chromatics Lounge live music space on the second floor.

Partitions walled off the construction from sight on both floors, with signs noting: “Sportsbook coming soon! A whole new way to play.”

Bryan Meyers of Commerce Township was visiting the casino Wednesday with his cousin Bill Baeckeroot of Troy, and said he would take more trips downtown when legalized sports betting arrived.

“I would definitely be down here for March Madness if they had it going,” Meyers said.

MotorCity Casino, which features table game dealers in Detroit sports uniforms, is owned by Marian Ilitch, the widow of Mike Ilitch, the longtime owner of the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings. The teams are now being operated by Marian’s son, Christopher.

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Matt Schoch

A Michigan native, Matt has worked at newspapers in Michigan, Missouri and the Virgin Islands. A versatile sports reporter, Matt has covered sailing on the Great Lakes, cricket in the Caribbean, high school and pro playoffs, and the Olympics in Rio. He’s also the former host of the Locked On Pistons Podcast and producer of a documentary on Emoni Bates. A former blackjack dealer, Matt has studied the industry from all sides.

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