MotorCity FanDuel Sportsbook Opens Just As Games Are Shut Down Due To Coronavirus Pandemic

Written By Matt Schoch on March 12, 2020Last Updated on October 14, 2020
Michigan sports betting online

DETROIT — Whether or not sports are being played is one question, but there is definitely sports wagering now in all three Detroit casinos.

One day after their crosstown competitors, MotorCity Casino opened its FanDuel Sportsbook in Michigan on Thursday morning with Barry Sanders as its featured guest.

MotorCity was the third Detroit casino to open its sportsbook after MGM Grand Detroit and Greektown Casino-Hotel opened theirs on Wednesday. This was one day after the Michigan Gaming Control Board approved rules to make Michigan the 16th state with legal sports wagering.


Brutal timing

It’s a cruel coincidence for those who pushed for an opening by the NCAA Tournament, as March Madness was canceled just hours after the opening of the sportsbook.

“Our timing was not very good, was it?” said Bruce Dall, president of MotorCity Casino, after answering a few questions about the coronavirus. “All we can do is kind of monitor the situation and adjust accordingly.”

The two-story sportsbook has six betting windows, 67 televisions and 54 self-serve IGT PlaySports betting kiosks. Dall said construction of the nearly 9,000-square-foot sportsbook cost just over $3 million and started in late January.

He said concerns about the virus had not yet slowed traffic at the casino, which is owned by Marian Ilitch, the widow of former Tigers and Red Wings owner Mike and mother of Christopher, who now runs the teams.

The FanDuel partnership allows bettors to wager on those teams, Dall said, adding FanDuel was chosen from 22 partnership offers.


Barry bets on the Tigers at FanDuel Sportsbook

Sanders chose to bet on one of the Ilitch-owned teams, wagering $20 on the Tigers to win the World Series.

The Lions legend did a ceremonial ribbon cutting, a meet and greet with fans, and made four other $20 bets on college basketball conference tournament games before news trickled in later about their cancellations: Michigan to beat Rutgers in the Big Ten, Duke over North Carolina State in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and Texas over Texas Tech in the Big 12, along with the over in that game.

“Those were important,” said Sanders, who notably did not bet on his former team. “So many entities came together, from the legislature to the sports and the fans demanding it, so obviously it’s a big deal.”

He was then asked if he really thought the lowly Tigers (+50000) were a good bet, responding that “we’ve got a chance.”


Fans, bettors excited for Michigan sports betting launch

Sanders’ presence drew fans such as Greg Thomas of St. Clair Shores, who wore his No. 20 Honolulu Blue jersey along with a Lions’ jacket.

“He is my all-time favorite. When I found out Barry was going to be here, I had to make it,” Thomas said. “Fans have been waiting a long time for it, but I wish they would’ve gotten horses as well. But I voted with this, voted for this stuff. Make it a Little Vegas; you know what I mean?”

Fans can place bets on all major US and college sports, though international club soccer wagers are not yet allowed. Horse racing bets are not available in the Detroit casinos.

Republican state representatives Michael Webber, of Rochester Hills, and Matt Hall, of Marshall, were also on hand for the opening.

News broke later in the day about the cancellation of the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis, though at the time of the opening, the NBA had already suspended play.

“It certainly will take a hit,” said Webber, who placed a bet on his alma mater Michigan State to win the NCAA Tournament. “I think eventually there will be a return to normalcy. I think people will really enjoy their ability to wager on sporting events; you don’t have to go to Vegas or Atlantic City, you can do it right here in Detroit or a tribal casino throughout the state.”

Michigan’s tribal casinos are formalizing plans to open their own sports betting facilities throughout the year.

Across town, MGM Grand Detroit opened its BetMGM Sportsbook on Wednesday with Sanders’ old teammate Lomas Brown among the celebrities on hand. The Greektown Sportsbook had former Lions star Lem Barney among its attendees for the opening of its temporary facility. The permanent sportsbook is scheduled to open by football season and will have Barstool Sports branding as Greektown owners Penn National Gaming have partnered with the brand.

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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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