Michigan sports betting finally rolling

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Michigan, perhaps more than any other state in the U.S., has seen its sports betting infancy roadblocked by the coronavirus pandemic.

A March 2020 in-person launch was to whet appetites for an online rollout about a year later. But that was in a normally functioning world, and certainly not one that has been defined by social distancing restrictions in place to guard against the spread of COVID-19.

The in-person books were barely live before the onset of the pandemic. Even once tribal and metropolitan Detroit casinos reopened, strict attendance limits were put in place. In response, the Michigan Gaming Control Board attempted to speed up its approval process for online wagering, but a hopeful late fall start date limped into early 2021.

At last, Friday marked the beginning of Michigan’s mobile era, with relief firmly mixed in alongside the anticipation. Ten platforms made their debuts and ushered in a robust opening weekend, buoyed by the two NFL conference championship games and a blockbuster UFC pay-per-view.

Divisional regionality with an NFC North rival involved, plus the Tom Brady-Aaron Rodgers quarterback matchup, likely propelled the Tampa Bay-Green Bay afternoon matchup Sunday to the top of the handle charts among multiple sportsbooks that responded to Gaming Today’s survey for opening-weekend online data.

The Buccaneers’ 31-26 victory over the Packers drew almost 40% of all sports wagering handle with BetRivers. The same game led the way among activity at PointsBet. DraftKings Sportsbook saw the AFC championship nightcap between Buffalo and Kansas City lead the way, and the Chiefs’ 38-24 romp over the Bills placed second among the former books, too.

Once one looks past the NFL behemoth, the landscape branches off in several intriguing directions. The Detroit Pistons’ Saturday loss to the Philadelphia 76ers was next in line at PointsBet, accounting for roughly one-third of all handle taken through the book nationwide on that game, thanks to a $1-per-point free bet promotion attached to the Pistons’ 114-110 defeat. The hometown squad led NBA betting at BetRivers. But for the Chicagoland-based sportsbook, college basketball was the second-most active sport for handle, despite both Michigan and Michigan State now being on a pause for COVID-19 issues. At BetMGM, the Wolverines’ 70-53 triumph over Purdue saw more action than any other event, company sports trader Darren Darby said.

The UFC 257 pay-per-view fight card promoting Conor McGregor’s return to the Octagon was a mixed bag across responding platforms in Michigan. Dustin Poirier’s underdog knockout of the Irish star placed third in state handle at DraftKings and was fourth at PointsBet. The fight didn’t register among the top handful of actioned events at BetRivers.

From the notable bets department, a $2 four-leg parlay involving NBA players to hit the first field goal of a particular game hit a +173,200 odds at DraftKings for a payout of nearly $3,500. And according to the Detroit Free Press, a business partner in Ooze, a greater Detroit cannabis accessory supplier, lost a $420,420 bet on the Bills covering their 3.5-point underdog spread against Kansas City. The bet was made through Barstool Sportsbook, of which Penn National Gaming has an ownership stake, and the book was matching first-time deposits to make contributions toward a Michigan-specific arm of the Barstool Fund, which is giving COVID-19 assistance to small businesses.

The futures market at DraftKings included its own local quirks. An understandable response is for the top-five Michigan basketball team to have 64% of national championship handle at +1400. A more head-scratching one has the 100-1 long shot Detroit Tigers garnering 20% of all World Series handle. The San Diego Padres, at +800, lead that department with 29% of early handle.

Odds and ends

Mile High Money: Colorado turned in another record month of sports wagering in December, logging $284.6 million in handle, which was a 20% increase over November’s total. The state, which launched sports betting May 1, took in $1.186 billion in wagers in those eight months online.

Prairie schedule set: In Iowa, the state’s primary horse racing venue, Prairie Meadows, announced an 84-day schedule for 2021 beginning April 30 that will include 32 thoroughbred stakes races. The schedule is an increase from a modified 67-day meet in 2020 that was reconfigured because of the ongoing pandemic.

About the Author
Danny Lawhon

Danny Lawhon

Danny Lawhon is based in West Des Moines, Iowa, and has maintained a diverse sports journalism career for more than a decade, including with the Des Moines Register. A native of northwest Missouri, Danny earns his betting money as a professional musician.

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