888 Investor Presentation Teases SI Casino Coming to Michigan

Michigan may soon be back up to its full quota of 15 online casino sites.

In a presentation to investors this week, 888 Holdings revealed that it would be pulling back on marketing its SI Sportsbook brand in sports-only states to focus on those that also offer iGaming.

SI Sportsbook is a partnership between 888, a major international online gambling operator, and Sports Illustrated magazine, from which it takes its name. 888 also powers the WSOP online poker site, Delaware’s lottery-operated online casinos, and its own 888casino, 888poker and 888sports products in New Jersey.

At the moment, however, the SI Sportsbook brand operates in three states only:

  • Colorado
  • Michigan
  • Virginia

Of those, Michigan is the only one with online casinos. That means 888’s seemingly-broad statement about its strategic plans is, in fact, very specific. Colorado and Virginia are out, and Michigan is the new hot market.

SI Sportsbook is currently the only Michigan online sportsbook without an attached online casino. However, there would be no point in emphasizing the possibility of one if it weren’t in the plans to offer it.

Indeed, the relevant slide in the presentation lists “iGaming alongside sports” as one of its bullet points and provides a mockup of a promotional minigame in a hypothetical SI Casino product.

888 Holdings presented mockups of a hypothetical SI Casino product

How Did SI Sportsbook Come to Michigan?

The Michigan online gambling market launched in January 2021. Its regulatory rules authorize 12 tribal and three retail casino operators to offer online products. Unlike most other states, however, the rules cap the market at a single brand per land-based partner.

Those 15 slots quickly filled up. However, earlier this year, TwinSpires announced that it would be discontinuing its sports betting and online casino activities to focus on its core business of race betting. That freed up its partner, Hannahville Indian Community, for a new brand.

SI Sportsbook moved in. However, it only used the license’s sports betting portion. In principle, the Hannahville tribe could have struck a deal with another operator to offer online casino games.

That led to some musing about what the plan could be. Here at MichiganSharp, we discussed the possibility that if PokerStars were to shut down its Fox Bet product, a single newcomer might split its partnership up, offering iGaming through the Hannahville license and sports betting with PokerStars’ partner, the Little Traverse Bay Band of Ottawa Indians.

Although legally possible, that idea looks to be out the window now, as 888 will surely end up using both halves of the Hannahville license.

Harsh Economic Conditions

As much hype as there was surrounding US sports betting, companies have been finding it hard to profit. The biggest players like FanDuel, DraftKings, BetMGM and Caesars have been pouring huge sums of cash into marketing. Those unwilling to keep up have been finding it hard to acquire customers.

That has led to a wave of smaller operators closing up shop. TwinSpires was among the first, but more recently, we’ve seen the likes of Fubo Sportsbook, Vie.gg, and MaximBet throw in the towel as well.

Even big European operators like 888 have been having a tough time if they don’t have brands that Americans recognize. Unibet recently announced a similar plan to 888’s, pulling out of sports-only markets to focus on iGaming. For that company, that means New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Obtaining that brand recognition was presumably the thinking behind creating SI Sportsbook. However, it seems to have been too late to market, having opened its first site in Colorado in 2021, three years after US sports betting kicked off.

When Will SI Casino Launch in Michigan?

888 didn’t explicitly confirm that it would launch a casino product in Michigan. However, given that it doesn’t have a presence in New Jersey, Pennsylvania or West Virginia, it’s hard to see what else it could mean.

The screenshot mockups above don’t look like the company is close to having a finished product. However, 888 already possesses all the necessary back-end technologies. All it needs to do is create a custom Sports Illustrated-branded front end and obtain the required licensing.

That isn’t a small job, but it won’t take years, either. Our best guess would be that 888 is thinking about a 2023 launch, perhaps around the middle of the year.


About the Author

Alex Weldon

Alex Weldon is the Casino News Editor for Michigan Sharp. He’s a former semiprofessional poker player and has been writing about online gambling professionally since 2014. Alex provides insightful content on the regulated online casino and poker industries, with an emphasis on legislation, regulation, responsible gambling and business strategy. His writing about poker has earned him multiple nominations for the American Poker Awards over the years.