The Little River Casino Resort announced on Tuesday it partnered with gaming giant Rush Street Interactive, enlisting it to run the casino’s in-house sportsbook and its online book, BetRivers.com.
The pandemic has taken a toll on all sectors of the state’s economy, but few have felt the pinch more than the casinos and Michigan’s nascent sports betting industry. Legalized sports betting never had a chance to take off in Michigan since it went into effect less than a week prior to the March lockdowns.
The solution to the void was to fast-track online sports betting, which wasn’t supposed to be launched until 2021 prior to the pandemic. Reports indicate state officials are looking at a possible November launch in the Wolverine State.
Sports Betting Could Mean Billions Annually For Michigan
Michigan is the second-largest state in terms of population, behind Pennsylvania, to offer legal sports betting. Thus, online sports betting, assuming live sports continue to slowly return, would provide a badly needed infusion of cash for the state.
The good news is there are few gaming companies better at providing infusions of cash than Rush Street Interactive. Rush Street operates four casinos and was the first to launch an online sportsbook in four different states.
The partnership with the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians is unique. The tribe’s casino reopened on June 1 and they plan to open the retail sportsbook in the early part of the third quarter.
The partnership is unique because many tribal casinos in other states argue they should solely regulate the industry, and view sports betting run by state entities as an infringement on their “regular” business.
But in Michigan, both commercial and tribal casinos have access to a sports betting market expected to reach $155.5 billion by 2024.
That’s a win-win for the state, which could generate $7-8 billion per year through sports betting (online betting is a huge piece of that puzzle).
Why A Partnership With Rush Street Makes Sense For Little River
For Little River Casino, having Rush Street Interactive in your corner while launching an online sportsbook in Michigan is like getting poker lessons from Phil Ivey, then wiping out your unsuspecting buddies every Tuesday night.
The RSI brand is ubiquitous with gaming. The Chicago-based Rush Street Interactive operates casinos in New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois. It was also the first company to launch online sportsbooks in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, and Colorado.
RSI was named Mobile Operator of the Year in North America at the EGR North America Awards 2019, and few companies have a bigger foothold in the online gaming industry.
Rush Street Interactive launched its first online casino, SugarHouse, in New Jersey in 2016 just as the state was in the middle of its landmark lawsuit that led to the reversal of PASPA in May of 2018 (RSI then opened up an online sportsbook).
“The successful track record of Rush Street Interactive as a provider of in-casino sportsbooks in Pennsylvania, New York, and Illinois, was very significant to us when we chose them as our partner,” said Andrew Gentile, general manager of Little River Casino Resort.
“Rush Street’s ability to provide a road map of how they’ve enabled other land-based casinos to operate market-leading sportsbooks kept us from having to reinvent the wheel.”
Michigan knows about wheels, just not the kind that keep the sports betting industry turning, which is why Little River Casino Resort has Rush Street Interactive to help shepherd it into the new market, which is expected to be worth billions.
Online betting was a big factor in that projection. For instance, 85% of sports bets in New Jersey were placed online through March 2020.
Little River Would Be Well-Positioned if Michigan Online Sports Betting Launches Early
The urgency to legalize online sports betting in Michigan is there. All three Detroit casinos have remained closed since March 16, depriving the state of hundreds of millions in taxable revenue (those casinos combine for more than $1 billion in revenue annually).
Now, Little River Casino has positioned itself to take advantage of the windfall that will result should the state make good on its goal to legalize online sports betting before the end of 2020.