• Michigan legislators voted to legalize sports betting in 2018 but were thwarted by Governor Rick Snyder
  • The sports betting tax rate has been one of the biggest problems for legislators to agree upon.
  • Michigan hopes to move forward with legalization before being left behind by neighboring states.

DETROIT – Sports betting in Michigan has yet to make an appearance but with legislative discussions occurring in the statehouse, the casinos are prepping for the best-case scenario.

In a major city with a variety of professional sports teams, operating a sportsbook in Detroit makes sense for the gaming companies.

Penn National is looking forward in hopes to become one of the first retail sports betting shops in town. Their purchase of Greektown Casino earlier this year marks an establishment worth turning into a betting parlor.

“We think sports betting at Greektown would be terrific for the property,” Schippers said. “There’s so much energy there before games. It would be a great shot in the arm for the property and for downtown Detroit.”

If talks in Lansing make sports betting in Michigan happen, Penn National’s mindset is to have themselves be the first skin at Greektown.

On a conference call, the company’s COO, Jay Snowden, explained how controlling the future of Penn National would be made much easier by “retaining control of that primary license.”

Through partnership agreements, the second and potentially third skin (dependent on a sports betting bill) would be reserved for The Stars Group and theScore. Both of these operators have made the connections to operate books within the country, but The Stars Group is further along on the timeline, already having launched sportsbooks.

The discussion of licensing skins is moot though if the lawmakers can’t come to an agreement to legalize sports betting.

Currently, no bill that would legalize the hobby can be found in the legislature, but Representative Brandt Iden (R- Oshtemo) has been the shining knight ready to take on the battle. Despite failed negotiations and extended standoffs between him and Governor Gretchen Whitmer, the opportunities are still present.

Iden plans to release the sports betting bill sometime in late August or early September that would see sports betting legalized both in retail locations as well as through an online platform. Sportsbooks in Michigan would be taxed at 8%, but this number has already received flak.

Whitmer believes the rate should be nearly doubled, but Iden is concerned that setting a rate too high will keep operators from wanting to launch sportsbooks. With sports betting being a 4-7% margin business on average, the books are less inclined to make the move if their profits are slated to be just enough to get by.

Penn National and Iden have been in constant communication throughout the process so far, as Iden is also gaining support from the Native American casinos within Michigan.

In the hopes to be the next midwestern state to advance with sports betting legalization, Michigan’s neighbor Indiana is projected to launch their first sportsbook by the beginning of the NFL season.

“We’re hopeful Michigan won’t allow itself to get left behind,” said Eric Shippers, the SVP of Public Affairs for Penn National. “Michigan is leaving a lot of money on the table it could be generating in tax revenue.”

Michigan voted to approve sports betting last year but the measure was vetoed by the Governor. Like last year, this proposal would permit both professional action as well as collegiate action, with no in-state restrictions.

News tags: | | | | | | | | | | |