How Michigan Became The Country’s Online Casino Leader (For 4 Hours)

Written By Paul Costanzo on April 20, 2023
Michigan online casinos revenue

Like warm, sunny weather in April, Michigan’s time atop the online casino world was magnificent, but brief.

Just four hours after the Michigan Gaming Control Board announced that Michigan online casinos had reported a national record of $171.8 million in revenue for March, Pennsylvania dropped its March report, and took the record back at $181.5 million.

Still, Michigan’s online casino market is continuing to prove it’s as strong as any in the country.

Here are four major reasons why Michigan was able to reach record heights in March.

BetMGM Michigan is the country’s online casino leader

If you’re going to make a run at being the biggest market in the country, it helps to have the nation’s most successful online casino.

BetMGM Michigan is a revenue-producing monster, and in March it set a record with $56.2 million. No operator in the country has ever had a better month.

But why is BetMGM so successful here?

Well, it’s trying really hard to be, and has been since before launch. BetMGM saw an opportunity in Michigan to compete with the biggest online gambling names, thanks to the brand loyalty gained through MGM Grand Detroit.

It was something insiders weren’t sure could happen, especially in terms of sports betting. Heck, even Playinmichigan used a photo of a pig flying when discussing the brand’s ambitions. But BetMGM has been a competitive third to FanDuel and DraftKings among Michigan online sportsbooks, and has left the competition in the dust on the casino side.

BetMGM’s massive game library features several exclusives. Among them are Michigan exclusives, like Red Wings Slingo, Tigers Slingo, and Lions Blackjack, Deluxe and Roulette.

It’s clear that BetMGM values Michigan, and it’s being rewarded by online casino players across the state. And all of that is being reflected in the revenue numbers.

Michigan online casino launch was well-coordinated and well-timed

We have written multiple stories about the quality of Michigan’s online gambling launch, but it will always bear repeating.

Regulators and operators used the 13 months between bill passage and launch day to prepare, and it was a massive success. There were eight online casinos available when they were able to go live on Jan. 22, 2021, and 14 sites available by June. There are now 15 online casinos in Michigan.

The fast start allowed Michigan to become competitive with predecessors Pennsylvania and New Jersey rather quickly.

Both of those states had slower starts thanks to a variety of factors, allowing Michigan to hit revenue milestones much faster. March put Michigan over $3 billion in just 27 months, while Pennsylvania needed 38 and New Jersey needed 91 to reach that number.

None of that is possible without coordination, but Michigan also benefited from timing. Legal online casinos overlapped with six months of pandemic restrictions at Michigan retail casinos. There was also a general wariness from some about going into crowded public spaces, even after restrictions were lifted.

That allowed players who may not have tried online casino games to become comfortable with them as an option early on.

No major online casino launches have followed Michigan

While several states have brought forward legislation to open online casinos, there have been no major launches since Michigan went live.

Connecticut is the latest to join the fray, but it has just two operators – DraftKings and Mohegan Sun (FanDuel).

Why does that matter? Because major operators haven’t had to turn much, if any, of their focus from Michigan.

Rather than spending their time and money trying to attract new customers in new states like Ohio and Massachusetts, as online sportsbooks have done, online casino operators can focus on improving their product and bringing in new games in existing markets.

This won’t last forever, as eventually another bigger state will add iGaming. But that’s likely a ways away, meaning Michigan online casinos will be getting the royal treatment for a while longer.

March set up well for an online casino record in Michigan

All of that led to March, which was perfectly situated for a record.

The momentum of online casinos had them on a record pace in February, but the calendar prevented that. With a similar daily average ($5.5 million) and 31 days, March was able to accomplish what February had threatened.

You also had a month with higher sports betting handle, thanks to March Madness. Several online casinos were providing cross-promotions, but just the simple act of opening the app helps, even if a little bit.

Lastly, the weather. It wasn’t horrid, but it wasn’t great. Basically, it was March in Michigan.

As one would expect, Michigan online casinos do better in the late fall, winter and early spring months. Revenue tends to dip slightly from May through September, as we try to take advantage of Michigan at its best.

Those factors would seem to suggest April will fall a little short of March. It has 30 days. There’s no major sporting events for cross-promotion. The weather is improving (sometimes).

But April did set a record a year ago, and if we’ve learned anything in the past six months, doubting the strength of Michigan online casinos is a fool’s errand.

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Paul Costanzo

Paul Costanzo is the managing editor of Playinmichigan, the No. 1 source for online gambling news in Michigan. He has covered news and sports throughout the state at various media outlets over the past 20 years. Paul works with a talented team at Playinmichigan to provide the latest news and information on Michigan’s booming sports betting, online casino and online poker industries.

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