Michigan can’t catch a break

No one will say so out loud, but sportsbook operators in Michigan have to wonder which karmic power they upset to feel this sort of sports wagering retribution.

It was bad enough that the state launched legal betting mere days before the initial coronavirus shutdown. The state’s rules on public gatherings have remained stringent enough to where facilities in the greater Detroit metro area have spent professional sports’ resumption operating at a fraction of its potential capacity.

Now, with COVID-19 cases experiencing a second, and stronger, nationwide surge, another shutdown in the Wolverine State looms. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has ordered all casinos under state oversight to close through Dec. 10. Tribal-operated casinos remain open but are in areas of the state that see a fraction of the urban Detroit.

Furthermore, even though the state approved online wagering at the time of its original passage in December 2019, the rules for such implementation have still not been approved.

So, sports operators like FanDuel’s Jeff Hoose, who is the company’s Midwest regional manager and who oversees the MotorCity Casino Hotel’s book in Detroit, are left with little else to do but shrug at fate and wait out the pandemic.

“We were encouraged by the strong business volume even in difficult circumstances,” Hoose said of the Detroit book’s patronage in the brief period of time since August that facilities were able to operate. “Our Michigan customers were very understanding with the adjustments made in the interest of public health, and we look forward to seeing them again soon.”

Previous comments from the Michigan Gaming Control Board appeared to indicate that the potential for online wagering might be available in the state as soon as the Thanksgiving holiday. But when contacted by Gaming Today late last week, board communications specialist Mary Kay Bean said Michigan’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules has not yet met to either finalize the rules for implementation or waive the requirement of a 15 session-day review When or if that occurs, Bean said it would take about three weeks afterward to launch. Do the math, and online wagering won’t be possible until 2021 if the approval doesn’t occur by the first week of December.

In the meantime, the agency “sent every operator and platform provider a pre-launch checklist to complete and submit” by the end of the holiday week, Bean said. And Hoose said Michigan customers have been able to download FanDuel’s app since early November in anticipation of the launch.

But how long will everyone be waiting this time? The answer seems to be somewhat outside of collective control.

Midwest dips toe in NBA Draft waters

Sports wagering has been around in parts of the Midwest for 15 months now, but the COVID-19 pandemic’s reshuffling of the NBA season meant that this past week’s NBA Draft was the first since basketball diehards in Indiana and Illinois could ply their prognosticative trade.

Data from DraftKings’ and PointsBet’s evaluation of Illinois and Indiana data saw more than a third of all wagerers correctly selecting Anthony Edwards to go first overall to the Minnesota Timberwolves. And although the fourth overall selection by the Chicago Bulls of Patrick Williams surprised some general NBA fans, DraftKings bettors in Indiana capitalized on the +125 odds for that selection at a higher rate than any other individual prop.

On the PointsBet side overall, nearly a quarter of bettors thought LaMelo Ball would still be available for Chicago (and at a +900 rate, to boot). But at +150, Williams still drew 16% of the nationwide bet count. In Illinois, that number raised to nearly 22%.

The total draft handle in Illinois fell significantly short of the NFL Draft haul, a PointsBet spokesperson said, with football’s inherent popularity advantage and its draft being the first sporting “event” after the initial COVID-19 shutdown being the two likely interest drivers.

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