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Michigan Online Horse Betting Gets Green Light

Just one live betting venue in state

The Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) has given the go-ahead to online betting on horse races. In an order issued Wednesday, May 6, MGCB executive director Richard Kalm said that third-party facilitators (TPF) can begin the application process.

“The order should enable the state’s horse racing industry to gain new followers through ADW [advance deposit wagering] and maintain protection for citizens who wish to place wagers on live and simulcast pari-mutuel racing in Michigan using their mobile phones,” Kalm stated in a press release. “Before ADW can go live in Michigan, the race meeting licensee and the certified horsemen’s organizations also must agree to a contract with a provider.”

Up until this week, the only opportunity for Michigan online horse betting gamblers had to bet on horses was in person at Northville Downs. Even simulcast races, which are races at other tracks shown on a television screen for betting offsite, could only be wagered upon at Northville Downs.

Operators must go through licensing process

The steps required for a TPF to obtain a license are what one would expect. They must apply for a license as well as submit a plan of operation. They must also submit proposed system operation plan changes and “use and communicate pari-mutuel wagers to a pari-mutuel system that meets all Michigan requirements.”

Prospective operators must also pay a $1,000 application fee and a $500 license renewal fee.

“We will work as quickly as we can to get it processed,” Mary Kay Bean, spokeswoman for the MGCB, told The Detroit News.

As soon as a TPF is granted a license, they can start accepting online and mobile bets. Northville Downs does not have to be open for this to happen, as the TPF can take wagers on simulcast races. Governor Gretchen Whitmer ordered the racetrack to close in mid-March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It will remain closed by executive order until at least May 28th.

Online casino, poker, sports betting still waiting

Governor Whitmer signed the largest gambling expansion bill in Michigan history in December 2019, legalizing online casino gaming, online poker, and sports betting. The three commercial casinos in Detroit and the state’s 23 tribal casinos can apply for online licenses, one brand for casino and one for poker.

Sports betting went live in the state in early March, just days before most of the United States went on lockdown to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Naturally, sports wagering revenue has been minimal in the weeks since.

Though online horse race betting is now permitted, internet sports betting is not. The MGCB sent draft regulations for online sports betting and online casino gaming to stakeholders last week for review. If a set of regulations can be settled upon, it is possible that they could be sent to Governor Whitmer as emergency rules to try to jumpstart part of the gambling economy during the pandemic. It is probably a longshot, though, as she previously told the MGCB that emergency rules is not the appropriate path to take to launch online gaming.

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