Illinois, Michigan join betting party

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It really is true. Timing is indeed everything.

That’s especially the case in the sports betting industry where Illinois launched operations Monday at the Rivers Casino sportsbook in Des Plaines and in Michigan, where MGM in Detroit launches today. This comes on the heels of MGM launching the re-branding of its sports betting operations and mobile app — BetMGM — last week in Nevada.

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When Michigan launches, it will become the 16th state to have activated some form of legalized sports betting. And with the NCAA Tournament getting underway in less than a week, the Wolverine State will be in position to book action on March Madness.

Perhaps it will even generate some interest from north of the border as Canadian sports fans come over the Ambassador Bridge into the Motor City to bet. Canada has yet to approve sports betting on individual games but you can bet on sports via parlay cards in certain provinces through the lottery.

Unfortunately for some states such as Washington, Louisiana and Virginia, March Madness will have come and gone by the time they get around to approving sports betting. Their focus should now be on getting bills passed and signed into law, setting up guidelines and awarding bids to be ready to do business come the start of the NFL season in early September.

That’s what Indiana and Iowa did last year and it worked out really well for both of those states. Millions in tax revenue are being generated through sports betting and they are ready to go when the first NCAA games tip off.

And speaking of Iowa and Indiana, I am pleased to let you know we are reviving our “Midwest Musings” Sportsbook Biz column as we are bringing Danny Lawhon on board to cover the industry in that part of the country. Danny writes about the Iowa sportsbook scene for the Des Moines Register and we’re excited to have him as part of the GT family. His column debuts next week.

Meanwhile, here in Las Vegas, the news from MGM last Friday was certainly worth noting. The Lion casts a huge presence along the Strip and the launch of BetMGM in Nevada, along with its already established availability in New Jersey, West Virginia and Indiana is big news.

When it comes to mobile apps, MGM knows it faces some stiff competition, both here in Nevada and in its other jurisdictions, particularly in New Jersey where William Hill, FanDuel, DraftKings and Pointsbet USA are major players. BetMGM will have to compete with the Westgate, Station Casinos, Circa Sports, South Point, Boyd Gaming and William Hill for Nevada mobile betting customers. Their betting lines will have to be competitive. Their service will have to be flawless and their app must be reliable and easy to operate as well as deposit and withdraw funds from.

If we’ve seen anything the last few years, it’s the casinos’ pushing their app during March Madness. The message is the same — sign up for the app, come to the sportsbook or elsewhere in the casino to watch the NCAA Tournament, bet from your phone without leaving your seat, avoid the long lines at the counter and eliminating the risk of getting shut out.

The biggest advantage, of course, is the ability to wager live in-game. We all know how crazy the swings of momentum are in most NCAA tourney games and for those who have become savvy at figuring out the biorhythms of college hoops, there are great opportunities available in-game.

For our friends living in New York, they continue to miss out. Not only is sports betting not available in New York City, the Empire State’s biggest metropolitan area, the inability to bet by phone anywhere is costing Albany millions of dollars in tax revenue. New Yorkers continue to trek across the Hudson River to New Jersey, which has reaped the benefits of N.Y. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s shortsightedness and that of his legislature.

For MGM, which owns the Empire City casino at Yonkers Raceway, this is especially painful. Part of its acquisition of Empire City was to be out in front of things when sports betting launched. Instead, it remains in a holding pattern while the legislature decides how and when to expand sports betting in Nw York.

Imagine how much its bottom line would be boosted by having sports betting at the track and being able to have BetMGM phone accounts available for use in New York? My guess is this will change at some point. But for now, the ferry rides and trips on the PATH train to Jersey will continue for New Yorkers who want to be in action during March Madness.

About the Author

Steve Carp

Steve Carp is a six-time Nevada Sportswriter of the Year. A 30-year veteran of the Las Vegas sports journalism scene, he covered the Vegas Golden Knights for the Las Vegas Review-Journal from 2015-2018.

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