The wait continues

Who knew that the late Tom Petty would be 40 years the soothsayer, speaking directly to Michiganders still waiting this first week of 2021 to begin sports wagering en masse.

Because yeah, yeah, residents of the state have been taking announcements that online approvals were coming in late fall on faith. Then, they took delays — first to the end of 202 and now into the new year — to the heart.

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The waiting continues to be the hardest part.

Just how much longer will it be before the first approvals (and hopefully more) for online wagering are given the green light? The answer should come at some point in the middle of this month.

In a Dec. 30 email to Gaming Today, Michigan Gaming Control Board communications specialist Mary Kay Bean said that the state expects to authorize an initial wave of properties for online wagering in mid-January. At the time, she mentioned that “no internet gaming or internet sports betting operator applicant” was ready for launch, although approval of controls and other dotting and crossing of final materials could come in short order.

“Timely, complete submissions of regulatory requirements are most important now,” she said in the message. “The MGCB is committed to reviewing all required materials quickly.”

The anxiousness comes, of course, because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which shut Michigan casinos for the second time from late November until shortly after the Christmas holiday. Even though casinos are open, they must do so at a trickle of their regular occupancy rates.

Once the figurative dam bursts for online wagering, Bean said there must be at least two entities (one casino from the Detroit area and one tribal property) authorized in an initial wave, “but if more are ready we likely will include them,” she said.

According to multiple industry sources, the prevailing expectations is that the three Detroit-area casinos — MGM Grand Detroit, MotorCity Casino Hotel and Greektown Casino — will all be launched simultaneously, along with three tribal properties. When other casinos may receive approval is not as clear, but it appears the state board has timeliness in mind at this stage.

“We hope to launch another batch shortly (after the initial wave), if they are ready,” Bean said.

Until then, every day potential wagerers see one more winter sports card pass them by.

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