What Colorado and Pennsylvania Can Teach Us About Michigan’s Upcoming iGaming Launch

The Great Lakes State inches ever-closer to an online casino and sports betting launch. Michigan’s highly-anticipated online gaming market is undoubtedly a jurisdiction to watch, considering the state welcomed both casinos and sportsbooks with open arms in one legislative swoop. 

Though recent developments could signal an unfortunate delay in Michigan, the state’s online gaming launch is still imminent. And two states–Colorado and Pennsylvania–serve as a great barometer for what we might be able to expect when Michigan goes live. 

Colorado’s Launch

Colorado’s sports betting launch is different from Michigan’s upcoming go-live in two significant ways. First, Colorado doesn’t have online casinos. Second, Colorado launched on May 1, 2020, smack-dab in the middle of the pandemic’s first wave. 

Michigan, even with an uncertain launch window, may have more in common with Colorado’s launch that it would first appear. Covid-19 cases are rising, and if the first wave is any indicator, we could see a widespread sporting shutdown. That would of course damage every state’s sports betting market, but Michigan has the added benefit of online casinos. 

That said, Colorado saw some insane numbers despite the league shutdowns. The state’s performance showed that bettors like the place wagers even on more obscure events like ping pong and darts. 

In July, as professional leagues made a tentative, crowd-less return, Colorado’s sports betting revenue surged. Total wager exceeded $59 million in the state. 

Colorado also played a key role for Betsson, an international operator making its first move to the US. The sportsbook isn’t live yet, but Betsson partnered with Central City’s Dostal Alley Saloon for a license. 

What This Tells Us About Michigan

  • Colorado saw success despite pandemic-related concerns. As the US careens toward a possible second shutdown, Michigan could still see strong performance upon launching online gaming. 
  • The added bonus of online casinos enhances this possibility; Colorado launched sports betting only. 
  • Michigan’s population is ~9.9 million; Colorado’s is ~5.7 million. Michigan bettors could churn out huge numbers once the state goes live, especially if Colorado’s performance is any indicator. 
  • Betsson’s move to launch in Colorado could easily be replicated by other European operators looking to make a splash in the States. 

Pennsylvania’s Launch

Pennsylvania sits relatively close to Michigan. A drive through Ohio or an adventurous sail across Lake Erie will deposit you in The Keystone State, where online gambling is legal.

Geography aside, Pennsylvania stands to teach Michigan quite a bit about online casinos and sportsbooks. After all, Pennsylvania is seen as an early adopter of online gaming formats, and many states use it as an example when they’re building their own legislation. 

Pennsylvania is one of the more mature markets for online casinos and sports betting. The state launched sports betting in 2019, just a year after the Supreme Court’s PASPA decision. Online casinos follow in July 2019. 

This one-two punch has sparked some amazing revenue for Pennsylvania. In 2020, online gambling revenue exceeded $55 million compared to $3.4 million during the same month in 2019. Simply put, online gambling growth in Pennsylvania is skyrocketing. 

Pennsylvania’s one-two punch of sportsbooks and casinos creates an ideal climate for operators, especially those who have experience in both verticals. Major players like DraftKings, FanDuel, and The Stars Group (with FOX Bet) have both channels live, creating a one-stop ecosystem for players. 

What This Tells Us About Michigan

  • Michigan’s revenue could closely mirror Pennsylvania’s numbers. PA boasts a population of ~12.8 million compared to Michigan’s ~9.9 million. Considering both will have casinos and sportsbooks available online in the near future, there’s reason to believe these markets will be similar. 
  • It’s possible Michigan’s adoption of online gambling could spark more legislation by neighboring states (looking at you, Illinois) to eventually allow online casinos. Especially if the tax revenue is high. 
  • Thanks to full-service operators, Michigan is bound to have a large number of sites offering both casinos and sportsbooks. That’s already a given, but it could mean sportsbook-only providers could make the leap into casino gaming sooner rather than later. 

Michigan Partnerships

Both Colorado and Pennsylvania had heavy partnership slates leading up to their launches. Big-name operators predictably swiped up many lucrative licensing deals in those markets. Michigan is already chock-full of team-ups. Online gaming juggernauts in the state are ready to take advantage of the competitive market. Here’s a look at current partnership deals in Michigan.

Michigan Casino Partner
MGM Grand BetMGM
Greektown Casino Barstool
MotorCity Casino Hotel FanDuel
May Mills Resort & Casino DraftKings
FireKeepers Casino & Hotel Scientific Games
Four Winds Casino Kambi
Kewadin Casinos GAN Plc
Leelanau Sands Casino William Hill
Little River Casino & Resort BetRivers
Odawa Casinos FOX Bet/Poker Stars
Ojibwa Casinos Golden Nugget
Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel William Hill
Northern Waters Casino Resort PointsBet
Island Resort & Casino BetAmerica

Considering many of these casino operators have multiple properties, this partnership line-up is all the more impressive. 

Colorado and Pennsylvania boasted similar slates, though Colorado’s partnerships formed a bit later in the state’s launch timeline. 

What this really means is that Michigan is a crucial market. Operators already have their ducks in a row. Partnerships are formed, and online gambling sites are gearing up for an intense battle to build an audience in the Great lakes State. 

For now, Michigan bettors just need to sit tight and maybe grab a few pre-launch bonuses (like these from FanDuel and DraftKings) as regulators finalize the state’s online gaming framework. 

About the Author

Cole Rush

Cole Rush is a Chicago-based freelance writer in the gambling, media, and entertainment space. His work has been showcased in various gaming industry magazines and online columns. Prior to freelance writing, Cole spent seven years in communications at a gambling and lottery supplier.