Futures Bet

Michigan’s casinos prep for new revenue from sports betting this spring and online gaming later this year.
sports betting illustration
With the rollout of legalized sports betting this spring, the state will tax revenue at 8.4 percent, while Detroit will levy a 1.25 percent tax. // Illustration by Brian Britigan

With the expected arrival this spring of legalized sports betting, MGM Grand Detroit, MotorCity Casino, Greektown Casino, and other gaming sites across the state have a real opportunity to appeal to a different audience.

Alex Calderone, managing director of Calderone Advisory Group in Birmingham and a close observer of the local casino market, says sports betting has the potential to be (forgive us) a game-changer.

“It’s been a market where, for years, the four major players — the three Detroit casinos and Caesars Windsor — have been largely waging war for market share in an environment that hasn’t really grown,” Calderone says. “Without legalization of online gaming and sports betting, you would see the continuation of this zero-sum game. We now have a catalyst for growth in the market.”

That growth will come in two ways, he says. One will be the attraction of sports bettors into the casinos, flocking to new retail sports betting establishments known as sportsbooks. The other is a spillover impact on casino hotel bookings and restaurants.

Marvin Beatty, vice president of community and public relations for Greektown Casino, says the gaming establishment hopes to have a sports betting room open in time for the NCAA basketball tournament in mid-March, although that’s dependent on the Michigan Gaming Control Board finalizing regulations.

“Initially it will be a brick-and-mortar experience,” Beatty says, “but at some point during the year I’m sure it will become such that you can do your sports betting on the internet. That will expand the dynamic.”

MGM Grand Detroit, the largest of the three Detroit casinos as measured by annual revenue, is ahead of the pack in turning sports betting into a potential draw. Last October, it converted a former nightclub into a sports bar called Moneyline. The well-appointed, Las Vegas-style facility features leather chairs and sofas, 60 large screens, high-top seating, and video poker machines at the bar. MotorCity Casino is building out a sportsbook, as well.

Jacob Miklojcik, president of Lansing-based Michigan Consultants, which tracks the national gaming market, expects the sports betting establishments to contribute sizeable revenue right away. “There’s a great market for it, and Detroit is a great sports town,” he says. “It’s going to bring in a lot of people who place a lot of bets and will play slot machines and tables.”

A wild card is how the digital side of sports betting will play out. Miklojcik projects the casinos’ on-site facilities may have a hard time keeping loyal customers coming back.