SI Casino’s Departure Frees Up an Online Casino License Slot in Michigan

The smaller Michigan online casino skins are in flux, with SI Casino leaving soon and others debuting. The latest announcement came on March 6, when 888 said it had a “termination agreement” with the entity that controls the Sports Illustrated brand. Meanwhile, 888’s New Jersey online casino, 888casino, may also have a short future.

On March 7, Bonus found SI Casino was still operating under the VHL Michigan brand. So, it’s unclear when the site will stop accepting bets.

On Feb. 7, 2023, VHL received approval from the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) to partner with the Hannahville Indian Community. That 888 brand then used the tribe’s Island Resort and Casino license to launch SI Casino.

Now, 888’s partnership with SI owner Authentic Brands Group (ABG) granting 888 “exclusive use of the Sports Illustrated brand for online betting and gaming” is ending with 888 paying  $50 million to leave the deal.

888casino Is a Caesars Partnership

So, SI Casino’s end is certain. Yet 888casino’s fate is far murkier.

In its March 6 announcement, Gibraltar-based 888 Holdings said it’s considering its options for its US B2C operations — sale, market exit, or “other possible strategic transactions.”

888 said of its online gambling sites in four states:

The Group has determined that its current structure will not optimise returns, and has initiated a strategic review of the operations.

Those operations are SI Casino in Michigan, 888casino in New Jersey, and SI Sportsbook in Colorado, Michigan, and Virginia. 888 recently exited Delaware.

In New Jersey, 888 holds market access through a partnership with Caesars Entertainment (Caesars Entertainment 39,44 -1,94%), according to the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE). 

This long-standing partnership has also allowed Caesars to use 888poker technology to power WSOP.com throughout the US. In Canada, Caesars has partnered with GGPoker instead, so there is a backup option available to Caesars if 888 decides to walk away from the market and all its deals here.

Bonus found all of 888’s New Jersey sites working on March 7.

Michigan’s iGaming Status

If there’s any state that accurately keeps its finger on the pulse of the US online casino gambling industry, it’s Michigan.

A fair amount of online gambling sites debut in Michigan rather than New Jersey, which is the historic iGaming testing state.

That means Michigan online casino gambling is literally in a state of change.

So, 888 picking Michigan as its first state to exit makes sense.

Other than the Big Three sites that generate the bulk of funds — BetMGM Casino, DraftKings Casino, and FanDuel Casino12 apps fight it out for the rest of the gross gaming revenue (GGR). In January, Michigan online casinos saw $181.9 million in GGR.

On Feb. 22, Fanatics Casino debuted.

Later this year, Caesars will introduce a new online casino product using the Michigan iGaming market access it bought from Wynn Resorts (Wynn Resorts 99,35 -0,09%). Selling that Michigan WynnBet Casino market access signaled WynnBet’s US closure. 

Meanwhile, for anyone keeping score — and in gambling circles, that tallying activity comes naturally — this isn’t the first change for Hannahville. The tribe was the first licensee to see a brand exit iGaming in the state when Churchill Downs Incorporated’s (CDI) TwinSpires shut down.

Now, CDI (Churchill Downs Incorporated 124,10 +1,56%) opposes legal online casino bills in states where it operates land-based casinos.

About the Author

Heather Fletcher

Heather Fletcher

Heather Fletcher is Lead Writer at Bonus, concentrating on online casino coverage. She specializes in breaking news, legislative coverage, and gambling marketing strategy overviews. To reach Heather with a news tip, email [email protected].
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