Michigan Gambling

The Michigan gambling industry thrives today with more than two dozen land-based casinos, legal horse racing betting, daily fantasy sports, an online lottery and more all on offer. The state has been toying with legalizing online gambling and sports betting as well with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle on board.

It seems just a matter of time before Michigan undergoes another significant gambling expansion. In the meantime, residents have a variety of options that include:

  • Casinos: Land-based
  • Poker: Land-based
  • Fantasy sports: Online and in-person
  • Horse racing betting: Online and in-person
  • Lottery: Online and in-person
  • Bingo: In-person
  • Games of skill: Online and in-person

Online Gambling in Michigan

Michigan is home to a handful of online betting options with horse racing, fantasy sports, the state lottery and games of skill all available to residents. Online casinos and poker sites remain outlawed, but there are significant efforts underway right now to change that. We consider Michigan to be on the shortlist of states likely to legalize online gambling in the near future.

State Representative Brandt Iden has been a particularly vocal champion of legal online gambling in Michigan for the past few years. He came especially close to realizing his dream in 2018 after getting a bipartisan package of online gambling bills all the way through the legislative process and to the desk of outgoing governor Rick Snyder.

Sadly for online gambling proponents, Governor Snyder vetoed the legislation during his last days in office to derail the effort at the last moment. However, Michigan has a new governor in place now and support among lawmakers remains strong.

In the meantime, Michigan residents may play online at a variety of other legal gaming sites in Michigan:

  • Fantasy Sports: DraftKings and FanDuel
  • Horse Racing Betting: BetAmerica
  • Lottery: Michigan Lottery Online
  • Games of Skill: WorldWinner
  • eSports: GamerSaloon and PlayersLounge

Land-Based Casinos in Michigan

Three commercial casinos in Detroit and 23 tribal casinos spread across the rest of the state call Michigan home today. Tribal groups pushed the issue back in the 80s and actually launched the first tribal casino anywhere in the nation right here in Michigan.

Commercial casinos were authorized through a referendum held in 1996 that asked voters if they approve the construction of three Detroit casinos. The vote passed by a narrow margin and the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) was established the following year to regulate the state’s newly-legal commercial casinos.

List of All Casinos in Michigan:

Commercial Casinos
Motor City Casino

2901 Grand River Ave
Detroit, MI 48201

Greektown Casino

555 E Lafayette Ave
Detroit, MI 48226

MGM Grand Detroit

177 3rd Ave
Detroit, MI 48226

 
Tribal Casinos
Bay Mills Resort & Casino

11386 West Lakeshore Drive
Brimley, MI 49715

Firekeepers Casino Hotel

11177 East Michigan Ave
Battle Creek, MI 49014

Four Winds New Buffalo

11111 Wilson Rd
New Buffalo, MI 49117

Four Winds Hartford

68600 Red Arrow Highway
Hartford, MI 49057

Four Winds Dowagiac

58700 M-51
South Dowagiac, MI 49074

Gun Lake Casino

1123 129th Ave
Wayland, MI 49348

Island Resort & Casino

W 399 US 2
Harris, MI 49845

Kewadin Casino

2186 Shunk Rd
Sault Ste. Marie, MI 49783

Kewadin Casino Christmas

N7761 Candy Cane Lane
Christmas, MI 49862

Kewadin Casino Hessel

N 3 Mile Rd
Hessel, MI 49745

Kewadin Casino Manistique

 5630 US Hwy 2
Manistique, MI 49854

Kewadin Shores Casino St. Ignace

 3015 Mackinac Trail
St. Ignace, MI 49781

Kings Club Casino

12140 W Lakeshore Drive
Brimley, MI 49715

Northern Waters Casino Resort

N5384 US 45
Watersmeet, MI 49969

Leelanau Sands Casino & Lodge

2521 NW Bayshore Drive
Peshawbestown, MI 49682

Little River Casino Resort

2700 Orchard Highway
Manistee, MI 49660

Odawa Casino

1760 Lears Rd
Petoskey, MI 49770

Odawa Casino Mackinaw

1080 S Nicolet St
Mackinaw City, MI 49701

Ojibwa Casino Baraga

16449 Michigan Ave
Baraga, MI 49908

Ojibwa Casino Marquette

105 Acre Trail
Marquette, MI 49855

Saganing Eagles Landing Casino

2690 Worth Rd

Standish, MI 48658

Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort

6800 Soaring Eagle Blvd
Mount Pleasant, MI 48858

Turtle Creek Casino & Hotel

7741 M-72 East
Williamsburg, MI 49690

 

Michigan and the Origin of Tribal Gaming in the USA

The story of tribal gaming in Michigan is an interesting one as it spurred the creation of what would later become a $32 billion plus industry spanning the country. Interestingly, it all began with a man who had nothing more than a garage, two homemade blackjack tables and a $10,000 loan from the local bank way back in 1983.

Fred Dakota had been laid off the year before from his tribal office job and had spent the last year collecting unemployment, seeking work and trying to figure out what to do. With unemployment in the area hovering around 40%, the early 80s were a bad time to find meaningful work.

It was around this time he recalled a previous year’s Keweenaw Bay Indian Community meeting that had resulted in the tribe drawing up gambling regulations in anticipation of launching a high stakes bingo game to pay for a housing construction project.

The original intent of the meeting was to form a regulatory framework for bingo, but attendees decided on a whim to regulate casino gambling as well because, why not?

Thinking back on the outcome of that meeting and with his options growing short, Fred Dakota decided to take a gamble. He spoke to his brother-in-law to secure some garage space, obtained a gambling permit from the tribe, got a $10,000 loan from the bank and built two blackjack tables by hand because money was so tight.

In the waning hours of 1983, Fred Dakota officially opened the country’s first tribal casino in his brother-in-law’s garage. The casino was a hit and shortly he was banking $1,000 a night. The casino proved so popular that Fred hired a construction company to build a new building just months after launching his humble garage-casino.

His personal casino operation would eventually be shut down after a series of expensive legal battles, but other tribal casinos took up the mantle and eventually won the right for Native Americans around the country to run their own casinos. As for Fred, he would later be invited to manage a nearby tribal casino that had opened after seeing his success.

Fred’s personal casino may have met an untimely end at the hands of unsympathetic courts, but it proved to be a catalyst of immense proportions that led to the establishment of tribal gaming in the USA. It is fair to credit Fred Dakota as the founder of Native American gambling in the USA.

Michigan Sports Betting

Michigan is likely to legalize sports betting in the near future thanks to a strong continent of pro-gaming lawmakers who have expended considerable effort crafting and introducing legislation over the past couple of years.

An online gambling bill filed in 2018 included a bit of text authorizing commercial and tribal casinos to apply for online gambling licenses that also would have allowed licensees to accept sports wagers. The bill was approved by both houses and went to the governor but failed to cross the finish line after Governor Rick Snyder decided to veto the whole thing.

The veto was a setback but does not spell the end for Michigan sports betting. The same lawmakers who introduced and passed the bill remain committed to legalizing online sports betting and gambling. With Governor Snyder no longer in office, the odds for legal sports betting have improved.

The latest effort to legalize Michigan sports betting came in March 2019 with the introduction of two bills related to online gambling. The 2019 bills are focused mostly on online gambling but include language authorizing internet wagers on “any amateur or professional sporting event or contest.”

Under the 2019 proposal, commercial and tribal casinos will be permitted to apply for online gambling licenses which would include online/mobile sports betting. The bill requires a $100,000 application fee that would be refundable minus any costs incurred by the Michigan Gaming Control Board for processing the license.

Once authorized, casinos would be required to pay a $200,000 licensing fee and then an annual $100,000 renewal fee. These licenses would allow land-based casinos in Michigan to offer casino-style games, poker and sports betting online. Customers would need to be 21 or older to participate.

The potential trouble spot with this effort is it only tackles sports betting to a limited degree. The 2019 online gambling bill only devotes one sentence to sports betting:

“The division may permit internet gaming operators licensed by the division to accept internet wagers under this act on any amateur or professional sporting event or contest.”

Typically, sports betting needs pages and pages of legislation to cover all manner of regulations such as outlining the duties of the gaming commission, recordkeeping requirements, special tax rates and more.

Legalizing something as complex as mobile sports betting with a single line of text is a bit of a longshot. Plus, the many stakeholders involved in sports betting (tribal groups, commercial operators, sports leagues, etc.) will also want to have a say in how sports betting is regulated if it is legalized. This all means there is a non-zero chance lawmakers strike the sports wagering sentence from the online gambling law and request separate legislation pertaining specifically to sports betting.

We will be following Michigan sports betting very closely over coming months, so check back often for the latest updates.

Poker in Michigan

Michigan poker laws dictate that poker may only be played at authorized casinos and charitable poker rooms that hold a Millionaire Party license. Home poker games are illegal and online poker has not yet been legalized (although lawmakers are working on changing that).

This leaves us with in-person poker as our only option right now. Fortunately, Michigan has an active live poker scene between the many casinos and charitable poker rooms spread across the state. The chances are if you’re reading these words from Michigan, there’s a poker room within reasonable driving distance.

List of All Poker Rooms in Michigan:

Note: The following list is dedicated exclusively to poker games held at casinos. The locations of charitable poker rooms change on a regular basis, but the MGCB website has a handy locator here that you can use to search for charitable games by city and county.

Lower Peninsula Poker Rooms
 
Motor City Poker Room

  • 17 Tables
  • Regular tournaments
  • Large bad beat jackpot

2901 Grand River Ave
Detroit, MI 48201

 

Greektown Poker Room

  • 12 tables
  • Texas Holdem, Omaha, Omaha Hi/Lo
  • $1.00/hour comp for all players

555 E Lafayette Ave
Detroit, MI 48226

MGM Grand Poker Room

  • 17 Tables
  • Regular tournaments
  • Limit, No-Limit Holdem and Omaha

1777 3rd Ave
Detroit, MI 48226

 

Firekeepers Poker Room

  • 22 Tables
  • Texas Holdem, Omaha, Hi/Lo and Stud
  • Large tournaments

11177 East Michigan Ave
Battle Creek, MI 49014

Gun Lake Poker Room

  • 14 Tables
  • Daily poker tournaments
  • Texas Holdem and Omaha

1123 129th Ave
Wayland, MI 49348

Odawa Casino Poker Room

  • 6 Tables
  • Closed Mon-Wed
  • Weekly tournaments

1760 Lears Rd
Petoskey, MI 49770

 

Soaring Eagle Poker Room

  • 14 Tables
  • Open 24/7
  • Holdem, Omaha, Stud, Pineapple and Mix

6800 Soaring Eagle Blvd
Mount Pleasant, MI 48858

 
Upper Peninsula
 
Bay Mills Poker Room

  • 4 Tables
  • Weekly tournaments
  • Frequent deep stack tournaments

11386 West Lakeshore Drive
Brimley, MI 49715

 

Island Resort Poker Room

  • 6 Tables
  • Closed Mondays and Tuesdays
  • Weekly tournaments

W 399 US 2
Harris, MI 49845

Kewadin Casino Poker Room

  • 4 Tables
  • Open Wed-Sun
  • Texas Holdem, Omaha and 7 Card Stud

2186 Shunk Rd
Sault Ste. Marie, MI 49783

 

Online Poker in Michigan

Michigan came very close to legalizing online poker at the end of 2018 as a part of the bigger gambling bill discussed a little higher on this page. The veto by former governor Rick Snyder may have been disheartening, but poker players should take heart knowing the bill made it through the most difficult part of the legislative process: receiving approval from the House and Senate.

A new poker bill is making its way through the process right now and with a different governor in place this time around. There are no guarantees, of course, but the odds are looking better every day that Michigan poker sites will be legalized sooner rather than later.

Rep. Brandt Iden says he is confident he can get the legislature on board once again and says he wants to work with the new governor to ensure the next bill passes without issue. However, he also says he believes his last bill had enough support that he might have been able to assemble a veto-override had there been more time in the legislative session.

According to local media, Iden believes his online poker and gambling bill would raise something in the range of $150 to $200 million in tax revenue. That revenue would then be earmarked for purposes such as education and infrastructure across Michigan.

Fantasy Sports in Michigan

Daily fantasy sports and office pools are not regulated in Michigan, but business is booming nonetheless. The major fantasy sites operate openly in Michigan and accept customers 18 or older.

The two biggest DFS sites in Michigan are:

  • DraftKings
  • FanDuel

The legality of daily fantasy sports and office pools is a grey area. On one hand, the Michigan government website states it in plain terms:

“Participating in betting pools based on sports, or anything else, is illegal. It’s also illegal to allow others to organize or participate in betting pools on your property. So if you allow others to gamble in your home or place of business, you’re breaking the law, even if you’re not participating in the gambling.”

On the other hand, office pools and daily fantasy sites operate in plain view of the law with little-to-no enforcement action. The Michigan Attorney General has not weighed in on the issue, but past statements from the office have indicated the state does not consider this a priority matter.

Horse Racing Betting in Michigan

Michigan had eight horse racing tracks in operation as recently as the late 90s, but the industry has struggled in recent years and now just a single racetrack remains in operation today. Online betting is similarly limited with BetAmerica.com being the only major racing betting site open to customers from Michigan.

The Michigan horse racing industry is currently in a state of flux with one racetrack in operation but slated to be sold and rebuilt in 2020 and another racetrack working to re-establish racing in 2020. A third racetrack, Hazel Park Raceway, closed suddenly in 2018 after announcing it too would be selling its assets.

Legal Racing Betting Sites in Michigan:

  • BetAmerica.com

Northville Downs: Open Now, Scheduled to Move in 2020

Northville Downs currently stands as the last active racetrack in Michigan right now. However, it announced in 2018 that it would be selling the land it current operates to a company that plans to build a $200 million residential development. Northville Downs officials say they will continue holding races until construction on the housing development begins and will then move to another location nearby.

Sports Creek Raceway: Not Open, Scheduled to Launch Again in 2020

Sports Creek Raceway closed in 2015 and was purchased by a new company in 2018 with plans to begin holding races during the 2019 season. AmRace and Sports LLC were unable to get everything ready in time to hold races in 2019, but officials have said they intend to apply again for the necessary licenses to hold races in 2020.

Michigan Lottery

Michigan has one of the most comprehensive lottery offerings in the nation with a wide range of game types on offer both in-person and online. The Michigan Lottery was established in 1972 and now offers draw games, instant win games, fast cash games, pull tabs, keno and second chance drawings.

About 62% of all MI Lottery purchases are given back to players in the form of prizes, which places Michigan near the upper third or so of states when ranked according to payout rates. Total lottery sales break down as follows:

  • 62% paid out as prizes
  • 26% to the School Aid
  • 9% to vendors and retailers
  • 3% to administrative expenses

MI Online Lottery 

State residents 18 or older may visit the MI Lottery website to play instant win games and keno as well as buy tickets to Powerball, Mega Millions, Fantasy 5 and Lotto 47.

The MI Lottery instant win games number in the dozens with all manner of themes, buyins and prize levels. These games are designed to function similarly to the scratch cards you would buy in person, but play at a faster rate and almost resemble slot machines with animated graphics, multiplying prizes and more.

You can visit the Michigan Lottery online games at:

  • MichiganLottery.com

Bingo in Michigan

Nonprofit organizations are allowed to conduct bingo games in Michigan after applying for and receiving a license from the Charitable Gaming Division of the state lottery. Nonprofit groups holding a large license may award up to $3,500 in prizes during a single event while groups with a small license may award up to $300 during a single event.

If you’re looking for a place to play bingo legally in Michigan, you can see this page on the state website for a list of licensed games sortable by city and county. Visit the website, select your city from the dropdown menu and you’ll find games nearby.

Some of Michigan’s tribal casinos also offer bingo games that are not bound by the state’s strict requirements governing charitable organizations.

Casinos with bingo:

Online Bingo MI

Michigan does not yet have legal online bingo, but that too could change in the near future. The online gambling bill legislators attempted to pass in 2018 gave licensed casino sites broad authority in the types of games they may offer.

The latest gaming bill explains that the Division of Internet Gaming may authorize online games that fit this definition:

“A game of skill or chance that is offered for play through the internet in which an individual wagers money or something of monetary value for the opportunity to win money or something of monetary value…

“Internet game includes gaming tournaments conducted via the internet in which individuals compete against one another in 1 or more of the games authorized by the division or in approved variations or composites as authorized by the division.”

We can conclude from this definition that bingo will be a definite possibility. Whether or not the Division of Internet Gaming decides to authorize online bingo remains to be seen, but it is clear there would be no legal prohibitions stopping the Division from doing so if this bill becomes law.

Games of Skill

Games of skill played for money are generally legal in Michigan, but operators of skill gaming websites and machines must walk a tight rope to ensure they don’t veer into gambling territory.

Under Michigan law, games that rely predominantly on skill do not meet the state’s definition of gambling. This means strategy gaming websites, competitive video gaming sites and certain types of gaming machines can be found throughout the state.

eSports

Competitive video gaming sites such as the ones listed below offer 1v1 matches and tournaments with real cash payouts for the latest video games. They work by matching you with other players, keeping your money in an escrow account and then paying the winner.

  • GamerSaloon.com
  • PlayersLounge.co

On an interesting side note, Gamer Saloon is run by a company based out of Michigan. Beyond Gaming, LLC operates GamerSaloon.com and was featured in Crain’s Detroit back in 2014. The company was founded by two avid gamers in 2006 and has since paid more than $55 million in prizes.

Strategy Gaming Sites

Basic strategy gaming sites offer games such as Solitaire, Bejeweled and Wheel of Fortune repurposed for competitive play among real players. These games are simple in terms of graphics and system requirements compared to the latest video games.

The most well-known strategy gaming site for real money is:

  • WorldWinner.com

Skill Gaming Machines

Skill gaming machines such as the Nudgemaster consoles that can be found in bars and bowling alleys operate in a legal grey area. The manufacturers of these games insist they are legal under MI law due to implementing a skill component and paying out in gift cards rather than in cash, but local authorities do not always agree.

For the most part, it seems law enforcement is content to overlook the occasional, solitary skill gaming machine set up in the back of a bar. However, businesses that focus on gaming machines do sometimes attract unwanted attention. A handful of skill game centers were shut down back in 2018 after the local police department raided Big Winners in Kentwood.

MI law is clearer when it comes to “redemption games,” which are skill-based games of the sort you’ll find at your local Dave and Busters. Under MI law, games that award noncash prizes and novelties can award up to $3.75 per play on average or up to $500 in accumulation.

Michigan Gambling Laws

Michigan gambling laws mostly deal with traditional forms of gaming such as that which takes place inside casinos, at racetracks and so on. Below, you can read more about the laws that regulate gaming in Michigan.

It is also looking increasingly likely state law will undergo significant change in the near term as lawmakers decide on the best way to regulate online gambling and sports betting. We will update this page with all the details if and when new Michigan gambling laws are introduced.

Online Gambling Law

Useful links:

  • HB 4311: Pending Online Gambling Bill

The Michigan legislature came very close to passing online gambling legislation in 2018 after getting a bill approved through the House and Senate before it was vetoed by Governor Rick Snyder.

The 2018 bill would have established online gambling licenses to commercial and tribal casinos for $200,000. Each license would have lasted for five years and come with a renewal fee of $100,000. The bill also called for a very reasonable tax rate of 8%, plus each of Detroit’s three commercial casinos on the hook for an additional 1.25% tax going to the city.

Governor Snyder’s veto took lawmakers by surprise but did not deter them. Michigan’s current best hope for online gambling now comes in the form of HB 4311 introduced in March 2019.

The newest bill largely models last year’s effort. HB 4311 establishes the Division of Internet Gaming under the Michigan Gaming Control Board to regulate online gambling and allows land-based casinos to apply for internet gaming licenses.

HB 4311 calls for the same tax and licensing framework as the previous year’s bill as well. The big difference now is Michigan has a new governor in place who is less likely to veto a popular online gambling bill.

Casino Law

Useful links:

Michigan’s first tribal casinos pushed the gambling issue long before the state ever got around to passing an actual casino law. Land-based gambling began with Fred Dakota and his makeshift home casino that operated under tribal regulations completely separate from the state itself. His early success led to other tribes opening casinos, and eventually the state got around to approving commercial casinos.

A referendum held in 1996 paved the way for commercial gambling in Detroit. That year, Proposal E on the November ballot asked voters if they would approve a new gambling law that would authorize up to three commercial casinos in Detroit.

Voters approved the measure by a narrow margin of 51.5% for to 48.5% against. Shortly thereafter, the legislature passed the Michigan Gaming Control and Revenue Act into law. The Act formally legalized three privately-operated casinos in Detroit, created the Michigan Gaming Control board, established numerous regulations and set a minimum age of 21 for participation in gambling.

Tribal casinos are operated and regulated by the various Native American tribes in Michigan. This means neither state law nor the Act govern tribal casinos. As such, tribes set their own rules (subject to gaming compacts with the state) and even establish their own minimum age for gambling. Some tribal casinos set the minimum age at 21 while others accept players as young as 18.

Sports Betting Law

Michigan does not have any laws regulating sports betting at this time. By default, betting on sports or running a bookmaking operation are illegal. However, lawmakers have expressed a clear desire to legalize sports betting and it seems to be only a matter of time before a law is passed to this effect.

The online gambling bill that is currently under consideration mentions sports betting in passing with a single line explaining that the Division of internet Gaming may permit “may permit internet gaming operators licensed by the division to accept internet wagers under this act on any amateur or professional sporting event or contest.”

The above sentence represents the entirety of proposed sports betting laws in Michigan right now. It would allow online gambling operators to accept sports wagers but is extremely limited in scope. Additional legislation would need to be passed to authorize retail (in-person) sportsbooks as well.

There are a couple of ways this could play out. If the 2019 online gambling bill is passed in its current form, mobile sports betting would be legalized in Michigan if the Division of Internet Gaming chooses to authorize such wagers. Another possibility is the legislature will decide separate legislation is needed to properly regulate sports betting.

Poker Law

Useful links:

In-person poker is authorized at tribal casinos through the various Native American regulators and through the 1996 Michigan Gaming Control and Revenue Act. Thus, must casinos in the state allow poker.

Online poker is not yet legal, but the 2019 gambling bill under consideration right now would allow licensed operators to run poker games. If that bill becomes law, casino sites will be authorized to offer online poker.

Social poker games are prohibited under Chapter XLIV of the Michigan Penal Code related to recreational gambling in general. Michigan law makes it clear that any form of gambling not specifically authorized under the state’s various casino laws is illegal, even if the organizers of the event charge no rake and earn no profit.

There are two exceptions for poker that takes place outside of authorized Michigan casinos. First, the Michigan Penal Code allows a narrow exemption for recreational card games conducted at senior citizen housing facilities as long as the game meets these requirements:

  • The housing facility houses at least 15 people who are 60 or older
  • The game is played merely for amusement and not for profit or fund-raising
  • Only bona fide members and employees of the club or group participate
  • The players bet no more than $0.25 per bet
  • The winning from a single hand of cards do not exceed $5

Second, Michigan law allows the conduct of charitable poker games that adhere to stringent requirements under its “Millionaire Party” laws for charitable fundraising. Bona fide charities, religious groups, senior citizen groups, fraternal organizations and veterans’ organizations may apply to the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) to host Millionaire Party events (poker games).

A charity may receive up to four licenses per year, with each license allowing up to four events on consecutive days. Meanwhile, suppliers (people who manage and run charitable poker rooms in concert with multiple charities) may only be open four days a week.

Some of the bigger suppliers operate semi-permanent poker rooms in Michigan by partnering with multiple charities throughout the year so that they’re able to run games every week despite each individual charity being restricted to four licenses per year.

The rules governing charitable poker are quite complex, so anyone considering getting involved either as a charity or supplier should speak to an attorney before proceeding.

Fantasy Sports Law

Fantasy sports are not regulated in Michigan and in fact are considered illegal by some in government. The Michigan government website states in plain terms:

“Participating in betting pools based on sports, or anything else, is illegal. It’s also illegal to allow others to organize or participate in betting pools on your property. So if you allow others to gamble in your home or place of business, you’re breaking the law, even if you’re not participating in the gambling.”

However, DraftKings and FanDuel both operate in Michigan and have faced no legal action from local authorities. A bill proposed in 2018 sought to formally legalize fantasy contests in Michigan but it too was vetoed by Governor Snyder when he vetoed the other online gambling bills proposed that year.

Although that bill is now dead in the water, it may provide a preview of how future legislation is crafted to regulate DFS sites as lawmakers tend to base new legislation on past efforts. Had the 2018 bill received the governor’s signature, it would have:

  • Given the Michigan Gaming Control board regulatory oversight
  • Required DFS sites to apply for an MGCB license at a cost of $50,000
  • Established an annual licensing renewal fee of $20,000
  • Set a minimum age of 18 for participation

Racing Betting Laws in Michigan

Useful links:

Parimutuel horse racing betting was officially legalized with the passage of the Racing Act of 1933 and then re-regulated with the Horse Racing Law of 1995. From that point on until the state lottery was authorized in 1972, horse racing was the only form of legal betting in the state.

Today, horse racing in Michigan is governed by the Horse Racing Law of 1995 along with amendments made to the law over the years.

Advance deposit wagering (a.k.a. online betting) exists in a legal grey zone with little clarity coming from state law. Section 431.317 of the Horse Racing Law of 1995 may be interpreted to prohibit online betting with the following text:

“(8) Any form of pari-mutuel wagering on the results of live or simulcast horse races must only occur or be permitted to occur at a licensed race meeting. A person shall not participate or be a party to any act or transaction relative to placing a wager or carrying a wager for placement outside of a race meeting ground. A person shall not provide messenger service for the placing of a bet for another person who is not a patron. However, this subsection does not prevent simulcasting or intrastate or interstate common pool wagering inside or outside this state as permitted by this act or the rules promulgated under this act.”

Although this bit of text does not specifically mention ADW or online betting, the Michigan Attorney General’s office has been known to send cease-and-desist letters to racing betting sites in the past. Most sites have since pulled out of the state, but BetAmerica has managed to slip through the cracks so far and remains open to customers from Michigan.

Lawmakers have attempted to legalize ADW sites in recent years. A law proposed in 2018 sought to clarify the situation and formally authorize advance deposit wagering. Governor Snyder vetoed it in the final days of 2018.

MI Lottery Law

Useful links:

The Michigan Lottery was established in 1972 after a majority of voters approved a state constitutional amendment to establish a lottery. The legislature then approved the Michigan Lottery Act and sold its first tickets that same year.

Michigan law authorizes the lottery to sell a wide range of gaming products with the majority of the money given back to players in the form of prizes. After prizes, revenue generated by the lottery goes toward the School Aid Fund, retailer commissions and operating expenses.

The Michigan Lottery launched online sales in late 2014. Players must be at least 18 years old, reside in Michigan and pass an identity verification test in order to sign up and play instant win games or buy tickets online.

No new legislation was needed to launch online lottery games in Michigan, but the Snyder Administration did have to request funding from the legislature in 2013 to get the ball rolling. State lawmakers finally agreed to the proposal and Michigan proceeded with its plan to sell games online.

MI Bingo Law

Useful links:

There are two circumstances in which real money bingo is legal in Michigan. First, qualified nonprofit organizations may host games after receiving a license from the Charitable Gaming Division of the Michigan Lottery.

Second, recreational bingo games may be run by senior citizen clubs and homes when all members are 60 or older and meet the following conditions:

  • The game is not run for a profit
  • All players are members and guests of the group or home
  • No more than $0.025 is charged for a bingo card
  • The total value of prizes awarded in a single day does not exceed $100

When it comes to nonprofit organizations, one of three licenses may be acquired to operate games:

  • Large bingo license: This allows the nonprofit group to hold one bingo day per week. No more than $1,100 may be awarded in a single game and no more than $3,500 may be awarded during a single occasion.
  • Small bingo license: The group may hold one bingo day per week. No more than $25 may be awarded in a single game and no more than $400 may be awarded during a single occasion.
  • Special bingo license: The group may run bingo games for up to seven consecutive days and may receive up to four special bingo licenses per year. No more than $1,100 may be awarded during a single game and no more than $3,500 may be awarded during a single occasion.

MI Skill Game Law

Multiple sections of the Michigan Penal Code address games of skill to establish the general landscape under which these types of games may operate. The law is not perfectly clear in all circumstances, but overall it does a decent job outlining what is legal and what is not when it comes to games of skill.

Section 750.310 specifies that contests in which the contestants pay an entry fee to compete with another for prizes while at the same time prohibiting third parties from wagering on the outcomes of those contests. It is under this piece of law that skill gaming websites are able to operate legally in Michigan.

Section 750.310b addresses physical gaming machines such as those you might find at your local tavern or in front of the grocery store. “Redemption games,” as they are called may operate under certain circumstances as long as winning and losing outcomes are determined by skill.

Additionally, redemption games must adhere to strict rules regarding prizes and payouts:

  • Redemption games may only award noncash prizes
  • The wholesale value of a single prize may not exceed $3.75
  • If multiple rounds of play accumulate increasingly valuable prizes, the value of those prizes may not exceed 15 times the amount charged for a single play or a $3.75 average value, whichever is less. Players are also allowed to accumulate increasingly valuable prizes as long as they do not exceed $500 in total. An example of this would be winning tickets at a redemption game that may later be redeemed for a gift worth up to $500.

Section 750.303 outlaws all skill games except those described above, crane/claw games and slot machines that are at least 25 years old and not used for gambling. Additionally, crane games may not award individual prizes valued at more than $3.75.

For the most part, these laws provide a clear legal imprint for skill gaming. The most notable exception would be daily fantasy sports (DFS). Federal law declares DFS games to be contests of skill, but that does not necessarily mean Michigan law agrees.

The question of whether or not fantasy sports can be considered games of skill is not adequately answered by Michigan law and one that has not been addressed in court. The Attorney General has made no ruling on the issue, but the major DFS sites have operated in Michigan for years with no trouble.

Lawmakers have attempted to pass DFS legislation to clarify the issue and establish regulations but have been unsuccessful in getting anything enacted to date. It seems likely lawmakers will get around to passing a DFS law sooner or later considering all it would change would be to give the state a piece of the action.

Frequently Asked Questions About Michigan Gambling

What is the minimum gambling age in Michigan?

This varies by the type of game and, in some cases, where the game takes place:

  • Casinos: 21+ in most locations; some tribal casinos allow players 18+
  • Poker: 21+ at casinos, 18+ at charitable poker games
  • Fantasy sports: 18+
  • Horse racing betting: 18+
  • Lottery: 18+
  • Skill games: 18+
  • Charitable bingo: 18+

Does Michigan allow lottery winners to claim prizes anonymously?

It depends. Winners of in-state drawings and scratch cards may remain anonymous for prize amounts greater than $10,000. Winners of multi-state draw games such as Mega Millions and Powerball are not allowed to remain anonymous.

Some Michigan legislators have attempted to introduce legislation allowing anonymity even for multi-state games. The latest effort was HB 6489 introduced in 2018. That bill would have allowed all winners of $10,000 or more to remain anonymous. The bill never made it beyond the House and no similar legislation has been introduced since.

State Problem Gambling Resources

If you suspect you or someone you know has a gambling problem, there are both national and state-level resources to contact for help and advice. You can see a list of national resources at the bottom of our homepage here.

Additionally, Michigan itself offers state-level resources you can contact for assistance:

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