A guide to Michigan legal online sports betting and gambling, which starts Friday

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Sports betting has been legal in Michigan since last March. But to do that, you had to go to an actual casino that offered a sportsbook.

But a new era of sports gambling dawns for casual and hard-core bettors alike as online gambling and sports betting officially kicks off Friday in the state. Nine sites will go live at noon, meaning you’ll be able to bet from the comfort of your own home – either on your desktop or, most likely, your phone.

Those nine, listed along with their casino partner, are:

  • FanDuel (MotorCity Casino)
  • BetMGM (MGM Grand Detroit)
  • Penn Sports Interactive/Barstool Sportsbook (Greektown Casino)
  • DraftKings (Bay Mills Indian Community)
  • William Hill (Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians)
  • TwinSpires (Hannahville Indian Community)
  • Golden Nugget (Keweenaw Bay Indian Community)
  • Rush Street (Little River Band of Ottawa Indians)
  • Wynn (Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians)

Their apps will be available to download quickly and you’ll be able to legally bet on anything from this weekend’s NFL playoffs to Bulgarian soccer, rugby, cricket, darts, drone racing and so, so much more.

Veteran gamblers have already been doing this for years, whether using offshore sites, such as Bovada or BetOnline, or going old school and having a bookie. But legalized mobile betting means Michiganders won’t have to pay pesky international fees to their bank or an additional fee to the website for each deposit. Or drive to Indiana or Illinois to use legal betting mobile apps.

If you’ve decided it’s time to dip your toes into world of sports betting, here’s an idea of what you’re getting into.

Is there an age limit?

Yes. You must be 21 years old to participate in sports betting in Michigan.

Do I have to live in Michigan to gamble or bet?

Phil Friend

No. Much like a trip to Las Vegas or Atlantic City casinos, if you are within the state borders you can use the online sites/apps to place bets. So if you live in Ohio or Wisconsin, you can simply drive to Michigan and bet on your phone.

“What’s great about our app is that it travels with you from state-to-state,” said Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook at DraftKings. “There are probably people adjacent to Michigan who are going to want to participate and don’t have sports wagering, who will drive to Michigan and sign up and make their wager, go home and continue to do that when they want to make a wager.”

Pick an app that’s best for you

The sportsbooks will vary in the number of bets they offer for each sport, so if your interest lies in tennis or auto racing, or even more obscure sports such as drone racing or gaming, be sure to find the sportsbook that best fits your interests. You can download those apps before signing up and see what’s offered, plus you can get a feel for each app’s functionality and see what you like.

A uniquely qualified expert in the sports betting world is Dan Kilbridge, an East Lansing and Michigan State graduate – and former State Journal staffer – who now works as a betting writer and handicapper for Bookies.com.

“Definitely look at multiple options before you make a deposit,” Kilbridge said. “If you’re really into tennis and you see that the book you’re looking at doesn’t have a lot of tennis lines, go find something else because there will be a book with every tennis bet that you can imagine.”

If you’re looking specifically for ease-of-use when it comes to apps, Kilbridge recommends DraftKings or FanDuel.

“Those are both really easy to use and geared toward user-friendly experiences,” Kilbridge said.

While all these sportsbooks are paired with what Ovello calls “brick-and-mortar” casinos, he expects 99 percent of all bets placed in Michigan to take place online once it goes live Friday.

Use a promo offer or friend referral when you sign up

I can’t stress this enough – every book will offer you a sign-up promo, and you should take advantage. Although read the fine print first – some sites won’t let new users withdraw their winnings right away.

For example, DraftKings will have two “double-your-money” promos for new users:

  • The Pistons to make one 3-point shot Friday vs. the Rockets
  • Any NFL team to score a touchdown this weekend in the conference championship games.

Those are $25 maximum bets, so when you bet and win both (which you will), you’re basically getting a free $50 when you sign up.

“All these sportsbooks have first-time sign-up bonuses and incentives, and often they’ll match your deposits. You essentially double your money right from the start,” Kilbridge said. “If you can spread (your money) around, you can basically take advantage of those offers at every sportsbook.”

FanDuel’s sign-up offer is $100 in free bets ($50 on sports, $50 on casino).

PointsBet’s sign-up offer is also unique. If you place a bet of $25 or more on the Pistons to win Friday vs. Houston, you’ll receive $1 in Free Bets for every point the Pistons score. So if the Pistons score 100 points, you’ll get a $100 Free Bet.

If you use a friend referral at DraftKings, both of you will get a free bet of up to $100, depending on how much the new user’s first deposit is.

There’s a lot happening on the apps – don’t be overwhelmed!

Again, there are going to be numerous sports to choose from the first time you open the app. Not just the usuals, like NFL or NBA, you’re going to see sports like table tennis, drone racing and cornhole (yes, that’s correct).

On top of that, if you click on individual games, you’re going to see multiple alternate point spreads, over-unders (total points scored) and player props. There’s also live betting for each game.

A few definitions:

  • Moneyline: You bet on a team or player to win, straight up. The easiest bet to do, but not where you make the most money if you’re picking a heavy favorite.
  • Spead: You bet on a team to win by X amount of points. For example, Kansas City is a 3-point favorite this weekend (you’ll see the -3 box next to Kansas City). If you think the Chiefs will win by more than 3 points, that’s the bet you make. If you think the Bills will lose by 2 points or fewer, or win outright, you can bet the Bills +3.
  • Over-Under: The total amount of points scored in a game. The over-under line in Chiefs-Bills is 54 points. If you think they’ll combine to score more than that, you’d bet the over. Otherwise, the under.

“There’s so much content on that site,” Ovello said. “Get comfortable with it and make bets that you’re comfortable with until you get used to all the offerings that we have. I would just tell the users to take your time until you kind of know what you’re doing, or ask if you need help.”

Don’t dive headfirst into your betting – take it slow

I have some bad news for you: you’re probably not going to have a $1 million bankroll right out of the gate if you’ve never bet before. All bettors, especially beginners, should set limits on what both your bankroll size is and the amount to wager on each game.

Whatever your opening deposit is, make sure it’s an amount you’re willing to lose.

“Figure out what you’re comfortable losing first and foremost, and then just see how it goes,” Kilbridge said.

Keep your bets small, roughly 1-2% of your bankroll. For example, if your bankroll is $1,000, single-leg bets should be $10. If you’re diving into the world of parlays, less than that.

For example, Green Bay is a 3-point favorite to beat Tampa Bay on Sunday. If you want to take the Packers -3, place $10 on it. If you’re feeling “really” good about a certain bet, feel free to stretch it between 4-5% of your bankroll.

Try not to stray from the sports you’re most comfortable and knowledgeable about.

A very important note: If you’re in this for the long haul, your best bet to make money is on single bets as opposed to parlays or teasers, and probably avoid parlays altogether at first.

What is a parlay, you ask? Well, simply, it’s when you combine two or more bets together. Let’s say you wanted to pair a Chiefs and Packers win together in this weekend’s NFL conference championship games – yes, you’ll win more than doing a single bet, but anytime you’re adding more factors into your bet, the chances of losing also increase.

“Big parlays are the ones that get a lot of publicity, but once you get into the 10-12 team parlays you’re essentially buying a lotto ticket,” Kilbridge said. “I know it’s intriguing when you see the potential.”

Online sports gambling and betting will be legal in Michigan starting on Friday. FanDuel is one of nine websites and apps that have been cleared to begin allowing bettors to make wagers beginning at noon.
Online sports gambling and betting will be legal in Michigan starting on Friday. FanDuel is one of nine websites and apps that have been cleared to begin allowing bettors to make wagers beginning at noon.

What about casino games?

Don’t you worry – there’s more than sports betting available. A number of sportsbooks, DraftKings and FanDuel included, will offer a wide range of casino games to play such as blackjack, poker, roulette, slots and baccarat, for starters.

“It’s a huge market. I can tell you that it’s a robust business,” Ovello said. “People prefer to do it there rather than going to brick-and-mortar locations. Everything you can get at those locations, you can get online.”

Don’t just visit the online casino out of curiosity and just start spinning the roulette wheel, though, if your focus is on sports betting.

“Once you start randomly playing casino games, (your sports betting bankroll) goes out the window,” Kilbridge said. “But if it’s your thing, you should take advantage of that because it’s super easy, super quick and better than sitting at a crowded table where you can’t get the minimum (bet you want). And it’s user-friendly.”

Do I have to pay taxes on my winnings?

Yes. The IRS website states that gambling winnings are fully taxable and you must report the income on your return. You would report all gambling winnings as “Other Income” on Form 1040 or 1040-SR.

You’ll receive IRS Form W-2G from the sportsbook if your gambling winnings for the year are at least $600 and the payout is at least 300 times the amount of your wager.

If you win $5,000 or more on a bet and the payout is at least 300 times what you wagered, the IRS requires the sportsbook to withhold 24% of your winnings.

Be wary of ‘buying’ bets

If you decide to dive further into sports betting and look into the world of subscription services, you’ll see a wide variance of offers. There are some on the up-and-up, such as Warren Sharp at Sharp Football Analysis, and Bookies.com, where Kilbridge works, but their packages can get pricey and is generally recommended only for serious bettors with money to spare.

But you can also fall into a web of seedier people. If you explore the underbelly on Twitter, for example, and find some rando proclaiming superb winning percentages and then is selling their bets, be careful what you wish for. If you do decide to go for it, be prepared to be inundated with numerous texts and phone calls daily from different people that may or may not be working together asking you to buy their bets as well.

At that point, you’re on “the list,” for better or worse. And they can be persistent. If you do fall down that rabbit hole, it’s a hole you’re probably going to be stuck in until you change your phone number.

“There’s all sorts of tricks and ways that people try to game it,” said Kilbridge, whose picks are available for $99 a month at Bookies.com. “At the end of the day, a lot of them are just grifters, but there are some really good ones out there, too.”

You may eventually find a gambling expert who you trust, and that’s perfectly fine, too.

HAVE FUN OUT THERE!

There’s nothing quite like sweating out the final seconds of a December college basketball game between South Dakota State and Bradley just to win $20.

If you’re not having fun with a little skin in the game, just remember that you can always bail on betting as easily as you signed up.

But, at least speaking from experience, I have multiple group chats with friends from high school and college where we discuss what bets we like, and in some instances, all join in on the same bets together for a “fun” (if we win) communal experience.

So get out there and make some money! Or, at least come close to breaking even.

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