Online sports betting expected to bring big money to Michigan during March Madness

Posted at 6:55 AM, Mar 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-19 17:07:33-04

(WXYZ) — This month, Michiganders are expected to place big bets on March Madness for the first time ever.

Sports betting became legal just days before the COVID-19 pandemic shut everything down, and online sports betting and gaming launched just about two months ago.

In the first 10 days, the Michigan Gaming Control Board said it raked in about $115 million from online betting. Then, in February, it was about $80 million from internet gaming and $300 million for online sports betting.

Analysts say they anticipate March Madness to give the Super Bowl a run for its money, bringing in millions in tax revenue.

"The first big thing Michigan has in its favor," Chris Altruda, an analyst at, said.

As Michigan prepares to compete in March Madness, Altruda said there's likely a large pent-up demand for sports bettors, considering COVID-19 led to the cancellation of the 2020 NCAA Tournament.

In 2019, he said March Madness saw an estimated $8.5 billion in bets, including office pools and legal wagering. Only 16 states had online gambling then. Now, 20 states are online.

"We expected a lot of action in Michigan with the whole suite of online poker, online casino, online sports betting, and it's a good sports state," analyst Jessica Welman said.

Welman notes the Super Bowl is the biggest single-sports betting event of the year, but March Madness is ongoing. In all major sports, she said Michigan is a prime market with teams to follow at the college and pro level.

"As a result, ts very quickly catapulted to itself into one of the top five sports betting markets when you look at what's called 'handle' which is the amount of money people bet in a given month," Welman said.

Michigan Gaming Control Board Executive Director Rick Kalm said he expects revenue estimates to exceed initial projections made when the law went into effect.

"We're also benefiting, right, by people that are still not able to go out and about and come to the casinos as easy. They're limited by capacity. So all of this is going to work itself out when this COVID thing is over with," Kalm said.

Depending on your financial institution, you may have to find an alternative route to fund your online bets.

Michigan Legacy Credit Union, for example, cut off card access to online betting websites because they say overdrafting is ultimately causing the institution to lose money.

"We don't want to be social police, but we also have to take into account because we are a financial cooperative, those potential losses get shared among all of our owners," Michigan Legacy Credit Union CEO Carma Peters said. "So we have a fiduciary responsibility to all of our owners to something that's going to take a large risk to our credit union, to our balance sheet."

The tax dollars the state takes in is earmarked for the school aid fund, first responder presumed coverage fund and the City of Detroit.