Will Hard Rock be Able to Grow Inside Michigan Sports Betting Market?

Dan Favale
By , Updated on: Jul 4, 2024 12:00 AM
Hard Rock will be launching inside the Michigan sports betting market, but they face an uphill climb in establishing market share.

 

Hard Rock Sportsbook will be entering the Michigan sports betting market in short order after purchasing the United States operations of 888 holdings, which is the company that runs the SI sportsbook. The purchase is an attempt to continue expanding a rock-solid footprint among online sportsbooks in the United States. But will Hard Rock be successful?

Experts, industry insiders and even consumers are asking this question. And not just as it pertains to sports betting in Michigan. People are increasingly wondering whether any new market entrants can effectively compete with entrenched heavyweights. This curiosity typically refers to hanging with FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM. And, well, it’s no different in this case. Those three operators represent the most popular Michigan online sportsbooks.

Can Hard Rock successfully rival them? Or can they at least compete with the second tier of competitors, such as ESPN Bet, Caesars and Fanatics? Let’s try and find the answer together.

FanDuel, DraftKings and Bet MGM Continue to Dominate Michigan Sports Betting Market

At this writing, 16 sportsbooks are licensed to operate in Michigan. And as is the case in many other states, the Michigan sports betting handle is dominated by FanDuel and DraftKings, with BetMGM checking in at third place. Here is David Briggs of PlayMichigan with more information on the Wolverine State’s market share:

“Could Hard Rock’s takeover of the SI online sportsbook in Michigan elevate it among the top sports betting operators in the state? That’s a tall order considering SI currently ranks 10th out of 15 Michigan online sportsbooks ranked by lifetime handle — $5 billion behind FanDuel, $4 billion behind DraftKings and $3.1 billion behind BetMGM — and was an even worse 12th in May. SI only had a total lifetime handle of $52.5 million in Michigan through May. FanDuel holds the all-time Michigan sports betting lead with $5.1 billion.”

The absolute monopoly these three have over the Michigan sports betting scene is even more apparent when you look at individual months. Take the most recent Michigan sports betting handle reports from May 2024. FanDuel ($126.8 million), DraftKings ($104.5 million) and BetMGM ($50 million) combined to do $281.3 million in total wagers. The entire Michigan sports betting handle clocked in just under $350 million. That means the “Big Three” sportsbooks accounted for more than 80 percent of the Michigan sports betting business.

This sounds wild on its face. But it’s even more incredible when you consider the Wolverine State has plenty of well-known alternatives like ESPN Bet and Caesars operating in the region. And astounding still, the 80-plus percent share for DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM isn’t even that large compared to other states.

Here’s Why Some People Think Hard Rock Sportsbook Can Compete with Industry Heavyweights

Across the country, smaller or less established sportsbooks have struggled to gain control of the market share required to keep pace with the most well-known operators. Many thought that the launch of ESPN Bet in markets like Massachusetts could add a new top-tier rival to the fold. However, ESPN Bet has routinely hovered in the second, third and fourth tiers of sports betting in handle throughout the United States. 

To be fair, while Penn Entertainment has operated sportsbooks for a while, ESPN Bet is still relatively new. Their place in the pecking order, both inside and outside the Michigan sports betting market, is far from finalized. Still, their gradual build speaks to the challenge at hand. You need both brand recognition and the resources to match it if you’re going to get mentioned in the same breath as the “Big Three.”

So, why do some believe Hard Rock Sportsbook in Michigan will have a better shot at rivaling the top of the market? As Briggs explained, it has a lot to do with their perceived clout:

“So, why even mention the possibility of Hard Rock making a huge impact in Michigan? It stems from the brand jumping up to fifth nationally among sportsbooks, according to the latest Eilers & Krejcik Gaming’s estimates as reported this morning by Steve Ruddock’s Straight to the Point newsletter. Hard Rock now has a 5 percent share of the national sports betting market. It is close to passing Caesars in fourth place and is within one percentage point of BetMGM in third. EKG estimates Hard Rock will pass BetMGM this year.”

This is a pretty big development. And yet, it might be overstated.

Can Hard Rock Actually Compete with Industry Heavyweights in Michigan?

Operations in one state are fueling the rise of Hard Rock Sportsbook. We are, of course, talking about sports betting in Florida. The Seminole Tribe has an exclusive gaming compact with the state. And it just so happens their casinos and sportsbooks are run in partnership with Hard Rock. 

Since Florida has the third largest population in the U.S., this has naturally beefed up Hard Rock’s national market share. On top of that, because Texas sports betting and California sports betting aren’t yet legal, the Florida sports betting market may be the biggest in the United States. (Sports betting in New York is the only other option.) 

While this is a major deal, it doesn’t necessarily inform how Hard Rock will fare among the Michigan sports betting ranks. They are the only game in town throughout the entire state of Florida. In Michigan, however, they will be competing for a smaller pie against a larger sample size of online sportsbooks.

This is not to say Hard Rock Sportsbook in Michigan will be a failure. Even without their Florida roots, Hard Rock is a more recognizable brand than the sportsbook they’re replacing. Their hold in the market should improve. But knowing what we know about United States sports betting right now, expectations for their short-term success should be tempered.

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Meet the author

Dan Favale

Dan first began writing about sports back in 2011. At the time, his expertise lied in the NBA and NFL. More than one decade, that remains the case. But he's also expanded his catalog to include extensive knowledge and analysis on the NHL, MLB, tennis, NASCAR, college ba...

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