Once Reopened, Michigan’s Tribal Casinos Will Look To Sports Betting

Written By Matt Schoch on March 19, 2020
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Although coronavirus closures and concerns are taking center stage in American life this week, Michigan’s tribal casinos have another big development on the horizon.

With the Detroit casinos already up and running with legalized sports betting for when sports returns, many of the state’s tribal casinos are working toward their own implementation.

Earlier this month, the Michigan Gaming Control Board gave the OK for Detroit casinos to start taking action on sports. Though the MGCB has no authority over the tribal casinos, officials said they are using similar guidelines and rules.

“Wanting to have another amenity, especially a strong one like sports betting, definitely is gratifying and the state did a good job, along with the tribes working together, to get something that’s workable,” Soaring Eagle CEO Mike Bean said. “It’s something that everybody should be proud of.”

Here’s a rundown from across the state of what to expect – and when:

FireKeepers Casino Hotel

The Battle Creek casino will re-brand Dacey’s Taphouse as Dacey’s Sportsbook when it adds sports betting this spring, according to Jim Wise, vice president in sports/online gaming.

The Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi facility has partnered with Scientific Games and will offer live betting windows and self-service kiosks in Dacey’s, which has two levels.

“We think from a technology standpoint, they’re ahead of the game on the sports side,” Wise said of SG. “And whatever point this evolves into online gaming, we have a great partner there.”

Wise said the future app and online casino will have FireKeepers branding.

“We didn’t think we had to get into a position where our brand would become secondary because we were using somebody else’s national reputation,” Wise said.

Four Winds

David Gutierrez, a spokesman for Four Winds Casino, said in an email to Playinmichigan there was no information to share at this time. The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians operates Four Winds facilities in New Buffalo, Dowagiac and Hartford in southwest Michigan.

Four Winds also operates a casino in South Bend, Ind., the only tribal casino in the Hoosier State.

Four Winds holds a Class II license which allows the operation of slot machines and a poker room. The Pokagon Band is in negotiations with the state of Indiana for Class III Gaming Compact, which would allow table games and sports betting.

Grand Traverse casinos

The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians has partnered with William Hill for online sports betting and online gaming at Turtle Creek in Williamsburg and Leelenau Sands in Peshawbestown.

The partnership was announced in late February with an expected opening by the 2020 football season. There will be a Turtle Creek sportsbook at Onyx Sports Bar and a satellite facility at Leelenau Sands.

Originally founded in the United Kingdom in 1934, William Hill came to the United States in 2012 and has become one the largest sports betting businesses in the country.

Little River

Joanne Green, marketing manager for Little River Casino Resort in Manistee, said last week the casino plans to have sports betting but did not have any further comment.

Gun Lake

The Wayland Casino, south of Grand Rapids, has partnered with Parx Casino of Pennsylvania for the Gun Lake Casino Sportsbook and online gaming site.

Parx, which is north of Philadelphia, is Pennsylvania’s largest casino and is owned and operated by Greenwood Racing Inc.

Stage 131 Sportsbook & Lounge will be the initial home for sports betting at the Wayland facility and will feature a betting counter and self-serve kiosks.

The casino has not announced a start date for sports betting, only saying it will be a “phased approach” over time.

Gun Lake announced an expansion in October to double the size of Stage 131, adding more seating, televisions, an outdoor period and a new dining service.

Soaring Eagle

The Mount Pleasant facility, operated by the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe, is the largest tribal casino in the state and has an anticipated late spring opening for sports betting.

Sports bar Ascend opened in 2018 with plans of converting into a sportsbook lounge with 10 betting kiosks, said Bean, the property’s CEO.

There is an elevated VIP area in the about 4,000 square foot space, which seats about 120.

Bean said last week there is a partnership in place for the sportsbook’s technology, though he would not comment on the partner or branding plans for the mobile betting app.

The Saginaw Chippewa tribe also operates the Saganing Eagles Landing Casino & Hotel in Standish where the Creekside Lounge will become a sportsbook.

There also will be kiosks at the Soaring Eagle Slot Palace across the street from Soaring Eagle in Mount Pleasant.

Upper Peninsula casinos

Playinmichigan contacted all 11 casinos in the Upper Peninsula and none shared firm plans on opening dates, partnerships or facilities.

The five Kewadin Casino locations in Christmas, Hessel, Manistique, Sault Ste. Marie and St. Ignace have no public plans, nor do the pairs of Bay Mills Indian Community casinos in Brimley or the Ojibwa Casinos in Baraga and Marquette. There was nothing to report from the Island Resort & Casino in Harris, and a marketing representative from Northern Waters Casino Resort in Watersmeet said they are taking a “wait-and-see” approach.

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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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