Special Report: Going All In

Big changes are coming soon to our ability to gamble in Michigan.

Sports betting and online gambling are now legal in the state.

That makes Michigan the 20th state to regulate and allow sports betting and just the fifth for online gambling.

“There’s internet, online, and then there’s the retail piece which occurs inside the casinos,” said Rick Kalm, the executive director of the Michigan Gaming Control Board.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed bipartisan legislation in December, 2019 that allows sports betting and online gambling in Michigan, and casinos are excited for the opportunity.

“It’s definitely been a fast track process for us. The team here had been preparing for it for quite some time. This great venue that we have here today was built and put together with the eye toward the possibility of sports betting being legalized. Since it happened, we’re now working with a partner to make it come true,” said Mike Bean, the CEO of Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort.

Unlike the three commercial casinos in Detroit, the Native American casinos do not have to abide by state gaming control board rules. They can set their own rules.

Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort in Mt. Pleasant has a room set up and just has to finalize a few more things before they will be ready for onsite sports betting, but, according to the state, internet gambling probably will not happen until at least early 2021.

“We don’t believe that anybody’s going to be online before probably this time next year, 2021. Online is completely under a different law and so that law requires us to draft administrative rules, and that process takes awhile,” Kalm said.

Before you place a bet from home, you will need to prove you are old enough and physically in the state of Michigan at the time, but that is not all the Michigan Gaming Control Board needs to figure out how to regulate.

“We have people that have gambling problems. The ability to gamble on a mobile device could exacerbate people that have addiction propensity to gamble, so we’re trying to make sure that we put safeguards in place to deal with that,” Kalm added.

Those in the mental health community say there are resources available for problem gamblers who may be more at risk with more gambling options out there.

“The first step is obviously recognizing that you have a problem. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Resources actually has a website devoted to problem gambling. There’s an online quiz you can take if you believe you might have a problem, to help you identify that. There are links to Gambling Anonymous resources in every county in the state of Michigan, as well as a list of providers that are available to treat gambling,” said Amy Bruno, a doctoral intern psychologist at Life Skills Psychological Services.

Back at local casinos, they already have the wheels spinning, so they will be ready when it is time to go online.

“We currently have signed an agreement with The Stars Group to host our online portion. The Stars Group is a company that’s been around for a number of years and all they’ve really got to do is publish. ‘Here’s the website. Here’s the phone number,’ so that part is going to be pretty easy once they get the go ahead,” said Ron Olson, the general manager of Odawa Casino.

But until then, casinos are working to hit the jackpot within their own walls and get onsite sports betting up and running.

“We have slots. We have table games. We have Keno. We have Bingo. We have food, beverage, entertainment and so sports betting is a nice additional amenity that we can offer to our guests,” Bean said.

Bringing people together to support their favorite team and, hopefully, win some money.

“That’s the beauty of sports betting. It really does create a lot of camaraderie amongst our guests. It creates some excitement for the day,” Olson added.