Revenue figures released by the Michigan Gaming Control Board this week show that both online casino gaming and online sports betting are proving to be very popular in the state of Michigan. Gross receipts from both new forms of gaming totaled $42.7 million in the first 10 days of operation, with $29.4 million from Internet gaming and $13.3 million from internet sports betting.  The initial figures demonstrate the strong interest within the state of Michigan for betting on all forms of sports and suggest that this new economic activity is having a positive effect in generating media interest and allowing for people isolated at home due to COVID-19 shutdowns to socialize more through online outlets. Additionally, based on national studies, online sports betting will hopefully have a positive impact on reducing the amount of wagering on illegal offshore accounts that are unregulated.  

The total handle for internet sports betting for just these 10 days was $115 million.  The state of Michigan has always been regarded as a big sports-oriented region that puts a ton of local media focus on all types of sports.  With the COVID-19 related lockdowns that have been ongoing, sports betting has proven to be a way for people to engage socially, albeit remotely over the Internet. This has triggered growth and further excitement for local sports media outlets and for their content creators.  

Greg Waddell and Carter Elliott, the local sports personalities behind "Sleepers Media", are not surprised that sports betting has proven to be so popular.  For the past several years The Sleepers have had popular Michigan-based sports focused podcasts and programming that is featured through numerous different outlets, including YouTube, Twitter, and a newly launched live sports chat platform, the LockerRoom app.  Sports betting has long been a staple of their conversations, but they have noticed a massive increase in interactions with fans and listeners with the debut of online sports betting in Michigan. When asked whether Michigan’s legalization of sports betting has enhanced interest in their content, Mr. Waddell stated the following:  "Engagement with our listeners has quadrupled since the day sports betting was legalized in Michigan.  And we have tailored our content to people who are learning to love betting online.  We give out Daily Picks on Twitter and have seen a massive increase in views each day and the participation level of followers has risen tremendously.  Part of the fun of betting on games for sports fans is the social element - people like knowing what their friends are winning/losing on, and they like the camaraderie of gambling together.  We have found success by steering the conversation into a place where an online community of sports fans can come together and win (or lose) together every day."

Mr. Elliott added a further observation, "there are two types of sports fans - ones that have always been interested in betting lines and point spreads, and ones that are just now learning and getting excited about them.  Betting on sports has gone from something that ten years ago had a niche audience to something that is now an integral part of the way both diehard fans and recreational watchers consume the games they enjoy."  

Legalized sports betting will also hopefully have a positive impact on the reduction of spending on illegal off shore wagering sites.   In its 2020 Survey of American Sports Bettors, the American Gaming Association (“AGA”)  observed that “average spending with illegal bookies fell 25 percent in legal sports betting states last year, while legal online and mobile betting spend increased 12 percent.”  The AGA Survey further notes that 74 percent of sports bettors believe it is important to only wager on legal and regulated sites.  Even though the introduction of legal sports wagering has this positive effect, the AGA’s CEO Bill Miller notes that education of consumers remains important: “Illegal, offshore operators continue to take advantage of unknowing consumers. This only worsened during the [COVID-19] sports shutdown, with unregulated bookmakers offering odds on everything from the weather and shark migration patterns to whether your friends’ marriage will survive the pandemic. The AGA is focused on educating customers on how to wager legally and about the dangers of the illegal market.” 

Although the revenue numbers in Michigan only cover a 10-day period, they suggest that legalized online sports betting is having positive effects in generating increased interest for local media outlets that focus on the topic and in reducing the flow of money to illegal off-shore betting sites.


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