Tribal casinos prepare for online gambling

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Tribal casinos in Michigan are preparing to offer online gambling, with the state expected to announce a start date in a matter of weeks. These casinos are not regulated by the state but need approval to make the digital platform available across Michigan. Jose Flores, vice […]

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Tribal casinos in Michigan are preparing to offer online gambling, with the state expected to announce a start date in a matter of weeks.

These casinos are not regulated by the state but need approval to make the digital platform available across Michigan.

Jose Flores, vice president and general manager of Gun Lake Casino, says they will be ready when online gaming begins.

“Developing the application, the website so that it’s seamless, it’s exciting. We’ve been working probably the greater part of a year on this,” Flores said.

The casino’s on-site sports betting area has already seen growth since opening in October.

“It’s been very welcomed by our guests and by our team members and it’s been very successful,” Flores said.

Gun Lake Casino is operating with COVID-19 protocols requiring masks. Smoking is currently not allowed, and on-site food and beverage have been suspended. Social distancing, temperature checks, and enhanced cleaning procedures are also being used.

Flores says once online betting goes live, it will greatly expand the casino’s reach.

“It’s a convenience factor for our guests. If you’re not able to make it in just before game time, you’re able to jump on the mobile application, on the website and place your bets,” Flores said.

Firekeepers Casino near Battle Creek was the first tribal casino to start in-person sports betting in June and is also preparing to go digital.

Jim Wise, vice president of marketing, says online gaming will go hand in hand with its existing business.

 “We don’t see in other states… that the iGaming hurts the brick-and-mortar casino, so we’re continuing to invest heavily,” Wise said.

He says placing bets through a local tribal casino will give customers better service over large corporate operators.

“They can download our app or play through our website and have confidence that they’re playing with the home team,” Wise said. “They can come in here and see us and make deposit withdrawals any issues associated with their account.”

Both casinos say the online component will bring in additional revenue for the tribe and charities they support.

“That will allow us to reinvest in the Firekeepers Revenue Sharing Board, which distributes money throughout the local communities,” Wise said.

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