Little River Casino’s partnership with Rush Street Interactive comes as part of a string of similar agreements signed by tribes across Michigan as part of a push to expand into sports betting at their casinos and eventually offer online gaming and sports betting. (Courtesy Photo)

MANISTEE, Mich. — The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians has partnered with a Chicago-based sports betting and online gaming operator Rush Street Interactive LLC to run its in-casino retail sportsbook.

Under the terms of the partnership agreement, Rush Street Interactive will operate the sportsbook located inside the tribe’s Little River Casino Resort north of Manistee, Mich. The tribe expects to open the sportsbook to guests early in the third quarter of this year, according to a statement.

The deal also includes plans to launch co-branded online sports betting and online casino gaming once allowed by state rules, according to a statement.

Rush Street Interactive operates sportsbooks inside casinos in New York, Pennsylvania and Illinois. The Chicago firm, which was founded in 2012, also operates online sportsbooks in Colorado, Indiana and Pennsylvania, and serves as the sportsbook partner for the Philadelphia Flyers.

“The successful track record of Rush Street Interactive as a provider of in-casino sportsbooks in Pennsylvania, New York and Illinois was very significant to us when we chose them as our partner,” Little River Casino Resort General Manager Andrew Gentile said in a statement. “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.”

Little River Casino currently includes about 1,350 slot machines, 26 table games, craps and interactive stadium roulette. 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 Rivers Casino Resort — from slots to tables to restaurants — thanks to the tremendous and growing popularity of sports wagering,” Schwartz said in a statement.

The Little River Casino’s partnership with Rush Street Interactive comes as part of a string of similar agreements signed by tribes across Michigan as part of a push to expand into sports betting at their casinos and eventually offer online gaming and sports betting.

Earlier this month, the Bay Mills Indian Community signed a deal with Boston, Mass.-based sports betting operator DraftKings Inc. to run the tribe’s sportsbook at Bay Mills Resort & Casino in Brimley in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. DraftKings-branded retail sportsbooks also are available in Colorado, Iowa, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey and New York.

The agreement also will allow DraftKings, which operates in seven states, to offer its mobile sportsbook to Michigan residents when state regulations allow.

“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.

According to the results of a Michigan consumer survey conducted by DraftKings, one-third of respondents said they had placed a legal sports bet via a mobile application or by traveling to a place it was legal. The survey found 55 percent of respondents “had never made an online wager before, demonstrating potential among casual bettors upon market entry.”

Other Michigan-based tribes have also sought outside partnerships for sportsbooks and online casino gaming operators. They include the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians partnering with Toronto-based The Stars Group Inc., the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi signing a deal with Las Vegas-based Scientific Games Corp., the Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians inking an agreement with a domestic subsidiary of Melbourne, Australia-based PointsBet Holdings Ltd., and the Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi (Gun Lake Tribe) sealing an agreement with Pennsylvania-based Parx Casino.

Rush Street Interactive previously announced a partnership in July 2019 with Gun Lake Casino for a “social casino” and “social sportsbook” via its Casino4Fun platform that allows guests to play for free. At the time, Schwartz said the agreement with Gun Lake Casino marked Rush Street Interactive’s “first partner in Indian Country.” The status of that agreement remains unknown.

A spokesperson for Rush Street Interactive acknowledged a request for clarification from Native News Online, but did not respond by the time this report was published.

Meanwhile, the Michigan Gaming Control Board is expected to finalize rules so online gaming and online sports betting can begin in the state by early 2021. However, a state lawmaker introduced a bill earlier this month that would allow tribal and commercially operated casinos to receive a provisional internet gaming supplier license so they could offer online gaming sooner and bolster the state’s coffers, which have been negatively affected by the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is fundamentally about revenue,” State Sen. Adam Hollier, D-Detroit, told business publication MiBiz for a June 16 report. “Casino gaming is a significant revenue source for a variety of governments across the state, and is used for essential needs.”

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