Published in Economic Development
Little River Casino partners with Chicago firm for sports betting, online gaming COURTESY PHOTO

Little River Casino partners with Chicago firm for sports betting, online gaming

BY MIBIZ STAFF Tuesday, June 23, 2020 05:04pm

MANISTEE — The Little River Casino Resort has partnered with a Chicago-based online gaming operator to run a sportsbook inside the Northern Michigan casino. 

The relationship with Chicago-based Rush Street Interactive LLC will start with the firm operating a retail sportsbook inside the casino, located north of Manistee at the intersection of U.S. 31 and M-22. The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians expects to open in-casino sports betting to guests starting early in the third quarter, according to a statement. 

After that initial launch and once the Michigan Gaming Control Board finalizes its rules, the partners then plan to offer co-branded online sports betting and online casino gaming. 

Founded in 2012, Rush Street Interactive operates sportsbooks inside casinos in New York, Pennsylvania and Illinois, and offers online sportsbooks in Colorado, Indiana and Pennsylvania. 

The company also is the sportsbook partner for the Philadelphia Flyers NHL team. 

In a statement, Rush Street Interactive President Richard Schwartz praised the tribe’s “outstanding reputation” in the gaming industry. 

“Being only a lakeshore away in Chicago, the Rush Street Interactive team views this partnership as an opportunity to help bring a property-wide lift to Little River Casino Resort — from slots to tables to restaurants — thanks to the tremendous and growing popularity of sports wagering,” Schwartz said in a statement. 

Little River Casino has about 1,350 slot machines and 26 table games and operates on a campus that includes a 292-room hotel, RV park, and event and conference center. 

Andrew Gentile, general manager of Little River Casino Resort, cited Rush Street Interactive’s “successful track record” with gaming in other states in opting to move ahead with the partnership. 

“Rush Street’s ability to provide a road map of how they’ve enabled other land-based casinos to operate market-leading sportsbooks kept us from having to reinvent the wheel,” Gentile said in a statement. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in December 2019 signed into law a bill legalizing sports betting and online gaming in Michigan. In the months since, tribes from across the state have been inking partnerships with national and international gaming brands around operating their sportsbooks and iGaming platforms. 

Earlier this month, Bay Mills Indian Community in the eastern Upper Peninsula signed a partnership with Boston-based DraftKings Inc. to operate the tribe’s sportsbook at Bay Mills Resort & Casino in Brimley. 

Similar to the deal Little River Casino signed with Rush Street Interactive, Bay Mills Indian Community will also look to expand into online sports betting with DraftKings once the state rules allow it. 

“Expanding on what entertainment options we can offer at Michigan’s longest operating gaming facility is always our goal,” Bryan Newland, Tribal Chairman for the Bay Mills Indian Community, said in a statement. “Our new on-site DraftKings Sportsbook will be one more great reason for Michiganders to vacation with us in the Upper Peninsula.”

Elsewhere in West Michigan, the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi previously partnered with Las Vegas-based Scientific Games Corp. for sports betting and online gaming via FireKeepers Casino near Battle Creek, while the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi, known as the Gun Lake Tribe, signed a similar agreement with Parx Casino of Pennsylvania. 

Mary Kay Bean, a spokesperson from the Michigan Gaming Control Board, told MiBiz for a report earlier this month that the agency expected to finalize its rules for online gaming and online sports betting by early 2021, “but it could happen by late this year if all goes well during the rulemaking process.”

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