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Gambling News

Michigan’s Newly Legalized iGaming Industry Attracts Major Players

In less than three weeks after Michigan officially legalized sports betting and online / mobile gambling, the Wolverine State has already attracted two iGaming industry heavy hitters.

The Michigan Legislature passed a comprehensive bill to legalize, regulate, and tax sports wagering, along with online / mobile poker and casino games, back on December 11. Nine days later, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed the ambitious gambling expansion package into law.

And it didn’t take long after that for local casino operators to partner up with major international iGaming providers like PokerStars and PointsBet.

PokerStars Triples Up on American Presence

In a press release issued on January 6, PokerStars parent company The Stars Group announced a comprehensive iGaming agreement with the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians Gaming Authority.

As one of the 23 federally recognized Native American tribes in Michigan, the Odawa have operated a casino resort near the city of Petoskey since 2007. But under its new deal with Toronto-based The Stars Group, the Odawa tribe will soon begin offering online / mobile sports betting via PokerStars’ recently rebranded FOX Bet app.

The arrangement also brings the PokerStars online / mobile poker platform, and its affiliated casino gambling vertical, a third American state – joining New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

In the joint press release, FOX Bet’s chief executive officer Robin Chhabra celebrated The Stars Group’s expansion into yet another major American market:

“We are excited to announce this agreement with the Odawa tribe, which further strengthens our market access as we work to continue to build our FOX Bet business into one of the leaders in the emerging U.S. online betting and gaming market.”

Tribal council Fred Harrington Jr. used his statement to celebrate the Odawa’s sudden expansion from a single casino venue to a revenue-sharing partner of one of the world’s leading iGaming brands:

“The Tribe’s partnership with The Stars Group extends beyond our reservation and places the thrill of world class sports betting and online gaming under every finger-tip sliding across a touch screen in the State of Michigan.”

While an exact timeline for the launch of legal sports betting has yet to be determined, state senator Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-23) – a key supporter of the legislation – has tabbed March as his preferred date for the debut of brick and mortar sportsbooks.

As for online / mobile poker and casino gambling, recent history in other states such as Pennsylvania suggests a 2021 launch is in the cards.

Aussie Bookmaker PointsBet Follows Suit Soon Afterwards

Not to be outdone, Australian sportsbook and iGaming operator PointsBet announced its own agreement with the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians on the same day.

The tribe operates Northern Waters Casino Resort in the township of Watersmeet, and while the deal currently calls for online / mobile only, PointsBet is reportedly seeking the rights to operate a brick and mortar sportsbook there as well.

The PointsBet app is already operational in New Jersey and Iowa, and the company expects to launch in Indiana in time for Super Bowl 54 next month.

In a press release, PointsBet Group chief executive officer Sam Swanell praised the Lac Vieux Desert Band as perfect partners for the company’s third American statewide entrance:

“PointsBet is pleased to have reached agreement for both online sportsbook and online casino operations with such a forward-thinking Tribe, and we look forward to many years of great success working together in Michigan.”

Lac Vieux Desert Tribal Chairman James Williams, Jr. issued a statement welcoming PointsBet aboard while pointing to the economic benefits the tribe can expect to reap down the road:

“The Tribe is excited to join forces with PointsBet to further the Tribe’s economic development efforts and expand gaming online as allowable under Michigan and federal law.

We are confident that this new opportunity will strengthen the Tribe’s self-sufficiency and self-determination efforts and provide much needed revenue to continue to expand and enhance tribal governmental services as well as provide jobs for the LVD community.”