Michigan’s gambling laws are in flux, as the state recently passed a major online gambling and sports betting bill. Michigan has 13 different tribal casinos, along with a handful of commercial casinos like MGM Detroit and Greektown Casino.

Michigan’s lawmakers passed the new gambling laws in order to bolster the land-based casino industry. Thus, the residents of Michigan can play at a growing list of licensed online casinos, poker sites, and sports betting. Meanwhile, residents can play at offshore online casinos.

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Michigan Gambling Laws

The gambling laws in Michigan have changed a lot in the last two years alone. In December 2019, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the Lawful Sports Betting Act and Lawful Online Gambling Act, thus passing sports betting and online gambling into law.

The past decade has seen a sea change in gambling for Michigan. As late as 2010, the Grand Rapids law enforcement raided an illegal poker tournament held in a hotel. Now, Michigan has embraced most forms of gambling.

Poker

Michigan Land-Based Casinos

Michigan has more than its fair share of land-based casinos. Detroit is home to three commercial casinos: Motor City Casino, Greektown Casino, and the MGM Detroit.

At one time, Greektown was named Jack Casino Detroit. That was during the time that Detroit entrepreneur Dan Gilbert — best known as the founder of Quicken Loans and the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers — owned the property. Gilbert sold Jack Casino Detroit to Penn National Gaming, which renamed the venue the Greektown Casino again.

12 different Native American tribes own casinos in Michigan. In all, 26 tribal casinos operate. Tribes that own multiple casinos include the Ojibwa Tribe, the Sault Tribe of Chippewa Indians, and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan.

Video Poker

Michigan Online Gambling

Michigan passed a law in 2019 that allows Michigan residents to play at licensed online casinos and poker sites. In January 2021, many online gambling sites launched. Online sports betting also is legal.

Beyond that, Michigan residents can play at offshore online casinos. These don’t have consumer protections, so read reviews and deposit money only in safe, trusted casino sites.

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Michigan Legal Betting Tracks

Michigan is home to Northville Downs, the state’s only horse racing tracks. Bettors can engage in pari-mutuel wagering and simulcast betting at the track outside Detroit.

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Michigan Charitable Gambling

Michigan also allows charitable gambling at bingo halls. Nonprofits throughout Michigan can host bingo nights, including church, police, fire, civic, and veterans’ organizations.

The Michigan Gaming Control Board also licenses nonprofit organizations for Millionaires Parties. This is a local term given to charitable poker nights that include raffles and select casino games.

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Michigan Social Gaming

Michigan bans social gaming outright — with anti-social gaming laws among its statutes. PlayMGM is illegal, though it would give players rewards they could use at MGM Detroit.

Residents shouldn’t play at Slotomania, Big Fish Games, Double Down Casino, and Zynga. It might seem strange that Michigan bans social gaming, but states with many forms of licensed gambling often ban the competition. For instance, Nevada bans lottery gaming.

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Michigan Bona Fide Gaming

Michigan is one of about a dozen US states that allows “bona fide” gaming.

Bona fide gaming is betting on games of skill — which is legal in Michigan. The specific law states that players can bet on a “contest for the determination of skill, speed, strength, or endurance or the bona fide owners of animals or vehicles entered in such a contest.”

Michigan Gambling Laws: Timeline and History

Here’s an overview of Michigan gambling laws, including a timeline of Michigan online gambling’s red-letter days.

  • 1972: Michigan Legalizes Lottery Betting

    Michigan Lottery Vote

    In a statewide referendum, Michigan voters passed an amendment to create the state lottery. The Michigan Lottery has raised over $24 billion for the state’s school system in the 49 years since.

  • November 13, 1972: Michigan Lottery Goes Live

    Colorado State Lottery

    The Michigan Lottery began on November 13, 1972 with the Green Ticket lottery game. The first million dollar prize drawing took place on February 22, 1973, when Hermus Millsaps of Taylor, Michigan won the drawings.

  • July 4, 1984: Bay Mills Blackjack Casino Opens

    European Blackjack

    The Bay Mills Blackjack Casino launched in July 1984 as the United States’ first tribal casino. The state of California challenged tribal casinos, leading to the landmark US Supreme Court case: California vs Cabazon Tribe.

    The SCOTUS ruling opened the door for widespread tribal gaming, codified by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988. Since then, hundreds of tribal casinos opened across the USA — including 26 tribal casinos in Michigan.

    The Bay Mills Blackjack Casino is now known as the Kings Club Casino.

  • September 6, 1996: Michigan Joins Mega Millions Lottery

    Mega Millions Lottery

    Michigan joined the Mega Millions multi-state lottery association. Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Georgia, and Virginia all joined Mega Millions on the same day as Michigan.

  • July 29, 1999: Michigan Commercial Casinos Open

    MGM Resorts China Starboard Value 1

    The first of Michigan’s commercial casinos opened on July 29, 1988. Three now exist in Detroit: Greektown Casino, Motor City Casino, and MGM Detroit.

  • January 20, 2010: Grand Rapids Police Raid Poker Tournament

    Michigan Police Raids

    At a hotel outside Grand Rapids, police raid an illegal poker tournament. 20 people were arrested on illegal gambling charges. This served notice that Michigan law enforcement was active against illegal gambling.

  • January 31, 2010: Michigan Joins Powerball Lottery

    Powerball Lottery

    Michigan joined the Powerball multi-state lottery association. Georgia, New York, Texas, Virginia, and Washington all joined the Powerball drawings on the same day as Michigan.

  • December 20, 2019: Lawful Internet Gaming Act Signed into Law

    Lawful Internet Gambling Act - Gretchen Whitmer

    Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) signed the Lawful Internet Gaming Act into law. The new Michigan online gambling bill legalized online casinos, online poker sites, and online sportsbooks. Land-based gaming venues could open online gaming portals.

    The law had bipartisan support. Rep. Brandt Iden (R-Kalamazoo), who had championed Michigan online gambling for years, drafted the Lawful Internet Gaming Act (HB 4311).

  • December 20, 2019: Lawful Sports Betting Act Signed into Law

    Michigan Sports Betting Bill

    The same day, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also signed the Lawful Sports Betting Act into law. Land-based casinos could open sportsbooks in their gaming space, while also launching online and mobile sports betting apps.

    Rep. Brandt Iden also sponsored the Lawful Sports Betting Act (HB 4916).

  • December 29, 2019: Multistate Online Gambling Act

    Online Poker Bill 2016

    Later in December, Gov. Whitmer signed a bill showing Michigan’s intent to join a poker liquidity sharing association with Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware. The Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement originally was signed by Nevada and Delaware. New Jersey signed years later.

    The US Justice Department declared in January 2019 that interstate poker was illegal, under the terms of the 1961 Federal Wire Act and the 2006 UIGEA law. Thus, Michigan joins a number of US states challenging the DOJ’s current stance on online gambling. If the states succeed, then multiple US states could share poker liquidity — thus increasing prize pools (and interest) in poker tournaments.

  • 2019: Michigan Officials Active in Gambling Enforcement

    Michigan Police Illegal Gambling Raids

    Michigan law enforcement officials are active in prosecuting illegal land-based gambling. Throughout 2019, the Michigan Gaming Control Board and local officials shut down 14 different illegal gambling operators — mostly those who housed illegal gaming machines.

  • January 22, 2021: Online Gambling and Sports Betting Goes Live in Michigan

    Arkansas Sports Betting

    The official launch of online casinos, poker sites, and sportsbooks happened on January 22, 2021. As the year continues, more and more online gambling sites will launch in Michigan.