SI Casino Makes Debut in Michigan

The online casino with the Sports Illustrated (SI) theme finally launches. The platform replaces TwinSpires Casino MI, which exited the market last September.
SI Casino Makes Debut in Michigan
By
February 08, 2023

After five months of being short one online casino, Michigan returned to its full complement of 15 online casinos on Tuesday with the debut of SI Casino, a new platform co-developed by 888 Holdings.

An online casino with a Sports Illustrated (SI) theme, SI Casino launched at 8 a.m. ET on Tuesday, according to the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB).

MGCB announced that it had approved 888 as the new platform provider for the Hannahville Indian Community, which owns and operates the Island Resort & Casino.

“I wish the Hannahville tribe continued success as they once again may offer their customers both internet gaming and internet sports betting in Michigan,” MGCB Executive Director Henry Williams said in a statement Tuesday.

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Newest Online Casino Enters Crowded Field

SI Casino makes its debut in Michigan. The online casino brand isn’t live in any other jurisdiction.

As the newest online casino in the Wolverine State, SI Casino MI has its work cut out. It enters a market that hit a record $152.8 million in revenue in December 2022, according to MGCB data.

TwinSpires MI had its best month in March 2021, when it grossed $2.2 million. But the operator had trended downward and fell to $529k in August 2022, the same month CDI announced a firm date for pulling the plug.

The revenue figures include online poker because MGCB does not separate online casino revenue from online poker.

SI Casino MI likely needs to gross about $1 million in a calendar month to have the best chance of not being the smallest online casino in Michigan in terms of revenue.

TwinSpires Casino MI Finally Replaced

Island Resort has been without an online casino since September 6, 2022.

That was the day that TwinSpires Casino MI, the online casino tethered to the land-based casino license of Island Resort, ceased operations.

Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI), TwinSpires’ parent, announced in February 2022 that it planned to mostly exit the online casino and sports betting businesses to focus exclusively on horse racing. But CDI also said it would retain a few well-performing retail sportsbooks and appears to be keeping its retail sportsbook at Island Resort.

In the final weeks of operation for TwinSpires Casino MI, signs began to emerge that CDI may have sold its online casino and sports betting access in Michigan to 888:

  • On August 26, the main website for SI Sportsbook — then with operations in Colorado and Virginia, but not Michigan — allowed users to select Michigan as their home state. A graphic for Island Resort also appeared on a website set up for Michigan
  • A slide presentation by 888 in August 2022 included a slide that said 888 planned to launch SI Sportsbook in Michigan during Q3 2022 and SI Casino in the state in Q4 2022
  • Then-CEO Itai Pazner also told analysts in August that 888 “will be launching sportsbook and casino in Michigan in the coming months”

Launch Follows Rough Month for 888

While 888 may have been forthcoming in August about its Michigan plans, it was mum when the moment to launch SI Casino finally arrived Tuesday.

The UK-based company made no official statement regarding the launch, but an announcement that SI Casino had become fully licensed by the MGCB and was live on Tuesday was posted on the website for SI Casino MI.

“We are thrilled to offer you the best real-money online casino games in Michigan, the Great Lakes State,” the announcement on SI Casino reads. “Our internationally-celebrated brand is enjoyed by millions of fans around the world. Now, we’ve dropped anchor in Michigan with the hottest online casino games.”

In June 2021, 888 formed a partnership with SI’s parent, Authentic Brands Group (ABS), to develop SI-themed products for online poker, casino gaming, and sports betting.

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The launch of SI Casino comes just eight days after 888 announced the departure of Pazner as CEO in the wake of a responsible gaming scandal.

An internal investigation found that 888 had not been adhering to its Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Know Your Client (KYC) protocols in the Middle East region. The company suspended VIP accounts in the region in response and tapped Lord Mendelsohn, its non-executive chair, as temporary CEO.

The VIP suspensions appear to be temporary and will likely be lifted once 888 completes its probe. It’s worth noting that 888 did not say that it had found evidence that money laundering occurred — only that it had determined that it took insufficient steps to prevent it in the region.

Looking for somewhere to play? Grab the latest Michigan online casino no deposit bonus and sign up for one of the best online casinos in MI.

If you or someone you know has a gambling problem and wants help, call the Virginia Council on Problem Gambling (VACPG) helpline at 1-888-532-3500

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