Some glitches, $100,000-plus losses in first weekend of Michigan online sports betting

Detroit Free Press

JC Reindl
| Detroit Free Press

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The opening weekend for legal online sports betting in Michigan saw many bonus offer redemptions, a few technical glitches and at least a couple $100,000-plus losing bets.

Online sports betting officially went live Friday with 10 different app platforms, each partnered with a Detroit casino or tribal casino within Michigan.

Soon after launch, users reported malfunctions with the BetMGM app belonging to MGM Grand Detroit.

A MGM Grand Detroit representative said Monday that high user traffic resulted in technical issues Friday that were fixed later that day.

American Betting Experts, a New Jersey-based analyst for the sports betting market, reported that because of the glitches, BetMGM users initially had trouble redeeming the app’s $200 special offers for free bets.

Yet, overall, a survey of 100 Michigan sports betting players by American Betting Experts found that 81% of respondents found their experiences over the weekend to be “mostly positive.”

Large amounts lost

The weekend also saw some losing six-figure bets.

David Portnoy, founder of the popular Barstool Sports website and a University of Michigan alumnus, visited Detroit’s Greektown Casino for the launch of the Barstool Sportsbook app in partnership with the casino. Portnoy shared on Twitter that he bet $100,000 on the Pistons winning their game Friday with the Houston Rockets.

He also apparently bet on the Red Wings beating the Chicago Blackhawks.

“I got caught up in the moment. (Keep in mind I’m rich. Always bet responsibly)” he tweeted.

Sadly, the Pistons lost 102-103 and the Red Wings lost 1-4.

“I’m never betting on the Pistons or Wings ever again,” Portnoy later tweeted.

More: Michigan legal online gambling and sports betting to start Friday

More: What you need to know about Michigan online sports betting

An ever bigger loss befell the owners of the Oak Park-based Ooze cannabis accessory supplier and lifestyle brand.

George Sinishtaj, a partner in the business, made a $420,420 bet through Barstool Sportsbook on behalf of the business on the Buffalo Bills beating the Kansas City Chiefs.

The bet also was intended as a philanthropic gesture because the owner of Greektown Casino, Penn National Gaming, has an ownership stake in Barstool Sports and as part of the launch weekend celebration, pledged to match Michigan players’ first-time deposits on the Sportsbook app with an equal donation to The Barstool Fund, which gives COVID-19 assistance to small businesses.

The Chiefs ended up beating the Bills 38-24. So even though Ooze lost $420,420 in the bet, the casino’s philanthropic match triggered a $420,420 donation to the relief fund. All matched donations from Michigan players are to go toward helping Michigan businesses.

“We made this huge wager because it is truly a win-win situation for us,” Sinishtaj, a former professional gambler, said.

“We were astounded when George approached us about coming in to make the bet,” John Drake, general manager of Greektown Casino-Hotel, said in a statement. “His desire to help local Detroit and Michigan business owners who haven’t fared well during this time is admirable and we jumped at the chance to support his bet.”

Contact JC Reindl: 313-222-6631 or Follow him on Twitter @jcreindl. Read more on business and sign up for our business newsletter.

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