FireKeepers casino in Battle Creek has made history, becoming the first tribal casino in Michigan to open its own sportsbook, rather than partnering with an existing operation.
Now sure, you may have to do a double-take on that. After all, doesn’t Bay Mills have a sportsbook on-site? What about the Little River Band’s casino? That’s where the history part comes in. Bay Mills does have a sportsbook on-site, but it’s a joint operation with DraftKings. The same goes for Little River, as the tribe signed a deal with Rush Street for a sportsbook, now not set to launch until September at the earliest. That leaves FireKeepers as the first to do it on their own.
It’s worth mentioning FireKeepers is also in a select group across the country. Fewer than 10 tribes own and operate their casino’s sportsbook in the U.S. As of July, FireKeepers has live wagering windows and self-service betting kiosks in place, as well as a digital aspect, set up in a partnership with Scientific Games Digital. During the grand opening, tribal officials also mentioned they have plans for iGaming within the next two years. The sports betting plans are part of a larger expansion started last year by the tribe. They’re building new high limit slot and table game areas, which should be ready by the time COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
FireKeepers Puts Rules in Place
FireKeepers named the operation Dacey’s Sportsbook after a local businessman. Paul Dacey helped the tribe start the casino 10 years ago. At the grand opening, he also placed the first bet. Now for anyone who wants to do the same and bet in person, there are a few rules to follow. Right now, people can bet at four kiosks inside, with another 10 set to be added before Labor Day. To bet at the sportsbook, you first have to wear a mask. No mask, no service. Also, you have to stay at least six feet apart from other groups of people. This goes for when you’re standing in line or waiting for the elevator. With only four kiosks, it will be challenging, but this is part of the safety routine in place. The hope for FireKeepers is to avoid the issues Detroit casinos and Wayne County are dealing with.
On July 26, Michigan recorded the highest daily total of new cases since May, with 1,041. So far, Battle Creek and the surrounding Calhoun County have avoided an outbreak. As of Aug. 1, the county and city had recorded just 737 cases since April. Now while actual state regulations are limited when it comes to tribal casinos, the tribes in many cases have stricter COVID-19 policies in place. One example of this is Colorado, where Mountain and Sky Ute tribes plan to keep casinos shut down.
Casino Outlines Strong Safety Plans
While FireKeepers plans to stay open, officials said they put together a strong safety plan to avoid an outbreak.
“During the past few weeks, the FireKeepers leadership team has worked diligently in every area of the casino and hotel to develop strategies to safely operate during these unprecedented times,” FireKeepers CEO Kathy George said in a statement.
That includes shutting down every other game on the slot floor, as well as what they call a “dramatically lower” number of games in general. The idea is to make it easier for people to socially distance from other groups while playing. FireKeepers also set up a slot calculator on their website, giving real-time updates on how many of the current games are in play. If there are no open games, the website will let you know that too. This way, people can check the site before coming to FireKeepers.
“The higher the number in play, the lower the number of available games,” George said in a statement. “We do not promise gaming space or access to the building will be allowed at any particular time if existing volumes of guests are high.”
The casino also requires masks or facial coverings for all guests, along with what they call a “symptom scan.” All guests will get a temperature check when they walk in. If you have a fever, you’ll be asked to wait 72 hours after symptoms have disappeared before coming back. And finally, all the smokers out there have to leave the cigarettes at home. Smoking isn’t currently permitted anywhere in the building. You can smoke outside in designated areas, but even then you’ll have to go through a temperature check before coming back in the building.