The state of Michigan has some of the most liberal, permissive laws regarding land-based casino gambling in the U.S. Betting on horse racing, table games, slots and nearly everything outside of sports is allowed on Native American land or inside state boundaries with legal permit. Native Americans still provide most of the high-quality casino gaming in Michigan outside of Detroit, which remains the province of the Michigan Gaming Control Board and state government.
Population: 9.91 million (off. 2014 est.)
Area: 96,716 sq. mi.
Gambling Age (Casinos): 18-21
Gambling Age (Lottery): 18
Number of Casinos: 20
• The “Toledo War” was a dispute over territory between Ohio and Michigan in 1835-36.
• Wolverines no longer inhabit Michigan, the “Wolverine State”.
• In 1879, Detroit residents became the first in the world to receive personal phone number.
• The only U.S. president from Michigan is also the only never to be elected president or vice president: Gerald Ford.
The history of legal gambling in Michigan follows similar lines to those of any state which was not one of the original 13 colonies. And, as in so many other states, Michigan legislators passed made pari-mutuel betting on horse racing legal with the Racing Act of 1933. In this year, the Office of the Racing Commissioner (ORC) was formed alongside.
A real watershed year came in 1972; as much of the U.S. was liberalizing laws regarding lotteries and other gambling, Michigan lawmakers established a state lottery along with a commission to oversee the game. (By 1996, the main draw had become a nine-state game called Mega Millions.) Soon thereafter, Michigan made officially legal the holding of gambling-style gaming for charitable purposes.
With passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) of 1988, things were ready to go in Michigan. Native Americans in the state were among the first to actually begin testing the limits of essentially a nationwide ban on gambling when the Keweenaw Bay tribe argued that hosting bingo games was legal based on the sovereign-nation status the tried had received in the late 1980s.
Casino gambling first came to Michigan in 1994 when the Saginaw Chippewa tribe opened a gaming hall for business in Mt. Pleasant. Known as the Soaring Eagle Casino, this outlet was required to give up 10% of its profits to state and municipal governments, a standard still in place to this day.
Meanwhile, the Michigan Gaming Control Board, meanwhile, had the foresight to allow casino gambling outside of Native American reservation land and opened three casinos in Detroit in 1996.
A plethora of options awaits the player seeking casinos in Michigan; in total, about 20 casinos today do business in Michigan (and the Caesars Windsor is just across the border in Canada).
Detroit naturally leads the state in providing casino gaming, with the Greektown, Motor City and MGM Grand Detroit casinos located in the big city. The Native American-owned and -operated Kewadin chain boasts five franchises throughout the Wolverine State: These are located in Sault Ste. Marie, Christmas, Hessel, Manistique and St. Ignace. The town of Brimley in Northern Michigan hosts two outlets in the Bay Mills Resort & Casino and the Kings Club Casino.
As some casinos in Michigan do not serve alcohol, those over 18 years of age may play there; otherwise, the legal age is the national standard of 21. To bet on horse racing or play the lottery in Michigan, one must be 18 yars of age at minimum.
When Joe Cada of Shelby Charter Township (pop. app. 74,000) won the 2009 World Series of Poker main event, he instantly wrote his name in the poker record books by achieving several superlatives along with the $8.5 million-plus prize.
Beyond becoming the first Michigander to take the WSOP title, Cada was also the youngest ever to win the main event at just 21 years of age. His six years’ worth of professional experience going into the tournament was also the most ever run up by a 21-year-old playing in the WSOP at that time. Cada has since played in four more WSOP final tables and took another WSOP bracelet in 2015. Beyond his big prize and the $500,000 he’d won in officially sanctioned games prior to the 2009 WSOP win, Cada has run up at least another $1.5 million in winnings going into 2017.
Michigan gambling law accounts for casinos both on reservation land and off- (well, the latter sites are only in Detroit, but there *is* potential) at licensed casinos. Sports betting of the classic sort is illegal in the state, but there are a few state-sponsored games involving picking the winners of NFL games week to week. Daily fantasy sports betting was never illegalized in Michigan, so that’s still playable as well.
Online gambling is technically illegal under U.S. federal law, but with Ontario nearby, access to the legal internet casinos in Canada is a drive away for many. We’re pretty sure that lots of Michiganders play at internet casinos with little fear of fines or warnings.
As football crazy as this state is – not to mention amenable in the past to sports gambling – we’d bet (so to speak) that Michigan will be among the leaders in decriminalizing gambling on sports.
As for casino gambling and horse racing, the future seems fairly stable. (Again, so to speak.) The casino industry has done a fair job in propping up Michigan race tracks – Hazel Park Raceway and the Northville Downs – through rough economic patches, so we’re assuming things stay the same in Michigan gambling for a while yet.