888 Holdings VHL, Michigan LLC has received approval from the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) to take over the online sports betting license issued in partnership with Michigan’s Island Resort & Casino, which is operated by the Hannahville Indian Community. The online sports betting site will operate under the Sports Illustrated brand name while giving 888 Holdings a new online toehold in Michigan, where it could conceivably also offer both online casino and poker.
888 Holdings received the approval on September 7. The MGCB approval also represents the first time an existing Michigan licensee has switched online partners. Formerly, Hannahville and Island Resort & Casino had partnered with Twin Spires, the online arm of Churchill Downs, Inc., but earlier this year Churchill Downs announced that it would narrow the market focus of its Twin Spires entity, focusing solely on horseracing opportunities.
Twin Spires’ exit from the Michigan market thus cleared the way for 888’s entry into the Wolverine State’s regulated online gambling market. That market has expanded quickly; Hannahville’s Island Resort & Casino is one of 15 tribal or commercial casinos currently licensed approved by the MGCB to offer one or more forms of online gambling.
Online casino next in Michigan for 888, poker future uncertain
888 Holdings’ plans in Michigan involve more than just online sports betting. Though the Hannahville tribe and 888 asked the MGCB only for the sports-related authorization as a starting point, the partnership won’t stop there. According to an MGCB announcement regarding the state’s approval of 888, the next step will be to launch an online casino — likely 888-branded — with the application to the state made before the end of 2022.
When or if 888 and Hannahville launch an 888Poker site in Michigan is an issue that will be pushed further down the road. Currently, three online poker platforms serve Michigan players — BetMGM, PokerStars, and WSOP.com. 888 does offer online poker in New Jersey. However, while Michigan has agreed in principle to join the Multistate Internet Gaming Agreement for online poker (which already includes New Jersey and Delaware), the final details have yet to be hammered into place, and Michigan’s poker players have yet to be pooled with those from other MSIGA states.
As a result, there’s no rush for 888 in Michigan. A Michigan-only 888 poker site would be at a decided disadvantage to the three already-existing poker platforms serving the state, making a wait until Michigan is fully active within MSIGA a prerequisite to any possible online poker consideration for 888.