Michigan is home to a thriving gambling industry with 23 tribal casinos, 3 casinos in Detroit and four parimutuel horse racing tracks. Land-based casinos in Michigan are regulated by the Michigan Gaming Control Board although most of the board’s power is limited to overseeing Detroit’s casinos. The Michigan Gaming Control Board only oversees certain aspects of tribal gaming related to state compacts and taxation.
The state also permits four forms of online betting: online lottery games, horse and greyhound racing, fantasy sports and skill games. Lawmakers have also taken steps in recent times to introduce online casinos, online poker and online sports betting with legislation introduced in each of the last two years. Currently, lawmakers are considering a bill seeking to legalize online gambling, poker and sports betting.
Michigan sports betting sites are still a fair way out time-wise due to the need to pass new legislation, get it approved by the governor and then actually take effect. However, things are moving and Michigan now looks more likely than not to legalize online gambling and betting at some point in the future.
Best Legal Michigan Betting Sites
Horse and Greyhound Betting:
Games of Skill:
Online casino and poker sites are likely to be a reality at some point, but right now there are no strictly legal options. Some people choose to play at offshore gambling sites, but those sites are not regulated and they operate contrary to state law.
For a period of time, Michigan had laws on the books that made it a crime to use the internet to play at unlicensed gaming sites. The language that applied to online gambling was repealed by Public Act 185 of the year 2000. This means that today there are no laws that make it a crime to participate in unlawful offshore gambling.
Despite the fact that you face almost no legal risk for participating in offshore gambling, it’s still best to stick with the few legal betting sites in Michigan. Offshore casinos are hosted in countries with lax gaming laws and zero enforcement under US authorities. Thus, there are no guarantees that you’ll get a fair game or even be paid if you play at sites not specifically authorized to do business in Michigan.
The laws for participation in gambling may be lax, but Michigan does enact harsh punishments for those who organize unlawful gambling games. If you’re not authorized to run your own game, you could land yourself in a significant heap of trouble for doing so.
Section 432.218 of Michigan’s statutes make it a felony with up to 10 years imprisonment and up to a $100,000 fine for organizing an unlicensed gambling game:
“(1) A person is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 10 years or a fine of not more than $100,000.00, or both, and shall be barred from receiving or maintaining a license for doing any of the following:
(a) Conducting a gambling operation where wagering is used or to be used without a license issued by the board.
(b) Conducting a gambling operation where wagering is permitted other than in the manner specified in section 9.”
This is one of the harshest penalties in the nation for unlawful gambling so stay far away from anything that could be construed as “conducting a gambling operation.” If you have any questions about the legality of an event you’d like to host, make sure you visit an attorney first.
Legal Betting Sites
There are some places you play online in Michigan that are 100% legal under all state and federal laws. These sites are legal thanks to various exemptions granted to them under federal legislation. All of the following sites are hosted in the United States and adhere to the law of the land.
Horse racing betting is available at any of Michigan’s four live racetracks plus at BetAmerica.com. The state at one time authorized three major betting websites, but two have since pulled out of Michigan. That leaves us with BetAmerica only, but fortunately BetAmerica is a reputable betting site that covers races across the US and internationally.
You can also visit any of the following live racetracks to watch races and place your bets in person:
- Northville Downs: www.northvilledowns.com
- Hazel Park Raceway: www.hazelparkraceway.com
- Sports Creek Raceway: www.sportscreek.com
Michigan’s live racing tracks also provide simulcasting services that allow you to wager on races that take place at other tracks around the country. If you’d rather bet from the comfort of home, check out any of the online racing websites linked above. Those cover races at hundreds of tracks in the US and other horse racing nations.
Michigan Online Lottery
Michigan is one of just a handful of states with a full-service online lottery available to anyone 18 or older and located within state borders. Governor Rick Snyder expressed support for online lottery sales in 2013, and the lottery bureau got to work.
In late 2014, the Michigan Lottery launched its online platform to little fanfare, but word got out and Michigan’s iLottery has experienced growth every year since. In 2017, the Michigan lottery raised nearly $78 million for state coffers.
The Michigan online lottery platform offers the full lottery experience from home. With an online account, customers can play 50+ online lottery games and buy tickets to all major drawings. Powerball, Mega Millions, Lotto 47 and Fantasy 5 tickets may all be purchased online for exactly the same amount it would cost to buy them at your local gas station.
Since going live, the Michigan online lottery has produced some impressive wins. Within months of the Michigan lottery going online, it produced its first $1,000,000 winner. MLive.com reported at the time that an anonymous player won a $1 million jackpot while playing Diamond Payout, which is an instant scratch game that’s still available today. Numerous other reports from local media outlets detail other major wins in excess of $100,000.
You can try the Michigan Lottery online and claim a $100 bonus at:
Sports Betting in Michigan
The legalization of sports betting in Michigan once seemed like a major long shot effort, but several things changed in 2018 to make it look like a realistic possibility. First, there was the Supreme Court decision issued in May of 2018 that found the federal sports betting prohibition unconstitutional. In that case, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was stricken down.
The death of PASPA cleared the first major hurdle for Michigan’s sports betting efforts – in fact, it was the primary hurdle for years because PASPA blocked all states from enacting laws to authorize or regulate sports betting.
With PASPA out of the picture, what remains for Michigan is to pass a state law to legalize and regulate sports betting. That effort is underway as you read these words. Several sports betting bills have been introduced since 2017, but the latest effort comes in the form of House Bill 4926 (full text).
HB 4926 is a large gaming expansion bill that seeks to legalize sports betting at casinos and online in addition to authorizing online casino games and poker. As far as sports betting goes, the bill would like to authorize commercial and tribal casinos to begin accepting sports wagers both in-person and online.
The Michigan House passed HB 4926 on a vote of 68-40 in June of 2018 and sent it over to the Senate for a vote. The fate of that bill has yet to be decided, but it has a realistic chance of becoming law and finally making Michigan sports betting a reality. We’ll update this page as the bill progresses and more information becomes available.
Daily fantasy sports are permitted in Michigan even though the legal status of the activity has never been affirmed by legislation. Sports fans received a scare in 2015 when a legalization bill failed to pass and then the Michigan Gaming Control Board executive director said it was his opinion that daily fantasy sports run contrary to state laws. Fortunately, the Gaming Control Board has no legal authority to enforce gaming law and the attorney general never got around to issuing an opinion.
As such, the status quo remains in effect in Michigan to this day. There was some concern that daily fantasy sites would exit Michigan, but they continued to operate in the state and have had no trouble to this day.
Michigan attempted again to legalize fantasy sports in 2017 with the introduction of Senate Bill 0461 to formally legalize fantasy sports and Senate Bill 0462 to regulate the industry. Both bills passed early committee reviews before moving to the committee of the whole.
Under this legislation, Michigan fantasy sports sites would be required to acquire a license from the Department of Licensing and Regulatory affairs. Licenses would cost $5,000 and then be renewed every year at a cost of $1,000. This legislation is also friendly to smaller DFS sites as it states licensing and renewal fees may not exceed 10% of the total amount of entry fees taken in Michigan minus payouts.
The proposal would also require fantasy sites to maintain adequate cash reserves backing all customer funds, to prohibit employees and sporting officials from participating and underdo an annual audit to ensure the site is properly funded for the safety of customers.
Online Poker and Casino Gambling
Online poker and casino games are not currently permitted in Michigan, but several bills have been introduced in recent years to change that. The most recent of those is House Bill 4926 related to sports betting and online gambling.
You can scroll back up to the sports betting section on this page to read more on how that bill relates to sports wagers, but as far as gambling goes, HB 4926 proposes to authorize Michigan’s three commercial casinos in Detroit and 23 tribal casinos across the state to offer online poker and casino games.
If HB 4926 becomes law, it will set up a process by which local casinos can apply for online gaming licenses at an up-front cost of $200,000 plus an annual renewal fee of $100,000. The bill also calls for a reasonable 8% tax rate, permits Michigan to enter multistate agreements with other states (which would clear the way for Michigan poker players to sit at tables alongside players from other states) and sets a minimum age of 21.
HB 4926 specifies that no online gaming may commence until after one year has passed from the date the bill becomes law. This means HB 4926 must survive a Senate vote, receive the governor’s signature and then one full year must pass before online gambling goes live. Even if things progress smoothly with no further debate (which is far from guaranteed), it will be a while before people in Michigan are gambling online.
The bill being discussed today in Michigan is similar to several bills introduced in 2017. In fact, many aspects are the same or similar. Three of those bills sought to amend existing law to decriminalize online gambling while the fourth proposed regulatory measures such as licensing fees and operating guidelines.
Senate Bill 203 was introduced in early 2017 in an attempt to legalize online casinos and poker. This bill sought to establish the “Lawful Internet Gaming Act” and permit existing casino operators to take their casino and poker games online. SB 203 called for a $200,000 licensing fee and $100,000 renewal fee for online gaming sites as well as a 10% tax on gross revenues and a variety of consumer protection regulations.
SB 203 served a promising start, but was unable to make it through the necessary votes to become law before the 2017 legislative season ended. That bill had little support among the state’s existing casino operators. Additionally, lawmakers must always tread very carefully to satisfy Michigan’s gaming tribes and commercial operators at the same time. You can read more about this bill and our predictions at the time this old post.
That bill appeared all but dead up through the early months of 2017. However, the bill resurfaced once again in March of 2017. The updated version of the bill made two concessions to tribal gaming interests in the hopes of making the bill more palatable for all interested parties.
One of those concessions was imposing a 12-month moratorium on commercial casinos launching their own casino sites in order to give the tribes time to prepare their own regulations and launch plans. Additionally, the bill gave tribal gaming interests more say in how they regulate online gambling. Tribes would have still been subject to some state regulations such as minimum age of participation, but the tribes would have been given more leeway in coming up with other regulations.
This all led up to the introduction of HB 4926 in 2017. HB 4926 read almost identically to the Senate bill from earlier in 2017. However, lawmakers added language to the bill this time around to potentially allow Michigan to legalize sports betting on the condition that sports betting is not prohibited by federal law (the Supreme Court has since stricken down the federal law prohibiting sports betting).
Previous Legalization Attempt
A bill introduced back in 2016 also tried but failed to legalize online poker and casinos in Michigan. Senate Bill 889 (full text here) sought to legalize online poker and casino games, create a division of internet gaming and issue up to 8 licenses for operators to offer real money poker games and casino gambling on the internet.
This post published in 2016 provides more detail. In summary, SB 889 would have given Michiganders 21 or older the ability to play legal online poker and casino games with licensed operators. Furthermore, the bill included a provision that would allow Michigan to enter online gaming compacts with other states and foreign jurisdictions, provided those compacts did not violate federal law or the laws of the other jurisdiction.
That part about gaming compacts was especially important for online poker because it avoided the problems that follow when states ring-fence their players off from the rest of the world. Restricting players to only playing with other people from the same state puts a severe damper on how many tables actually run at any given time. Online poker needs a large player base to keep the games running.
SB 889 successfully made it through its first vote in June of 2016. The Senate Regulatory Reform Committee approved the bill by an 8-1 vote. That moved the bill one step closer to a full Senate vote but was never able to gain the traction it needed before the 2016 legislative session came to a close.
It is legal to bet on contests of skill in the US as long as you are considered one of the competitors and have direct control over winning and losing. It is also legal to bet on games of skill online as long as those games are truly based on skill.
Many people (myself included) consider poker to be a game of skill but the law does not so you won’t find poker at a skill gaming site. What you’ll find instead are heads-up games such as Scrabble, Spades and Bejeweled. Your goal in these games is to use your skills to outplay your opponent and win the bet.
WorldWinner.com is the largest skill gaming website today, but it’s still a fairly small site compared to any of those mentioned above. The site imposes strict deposit and wagering limits and uses somewhat dated software. Overall, WorldWinner is a decent place to play real money skill games but it’s not the type of place where you can go to win life-changing amounts of money.