A Michigander’s Guide to Betting Apps

We consider usability, look, social responsibility, and more to rank your mobile gaming options from best to worst

Once you’ve tried out the many betting apps on the market, you realize that there’s a sameness to them that makes the exercise redundant. Most of them have a wide variety of slot and video table games in the casino, and most offer wagering for a long list of sports, including for overseas leagues you’ve never heard of.

The distinctions that led to the rankings you find here, then, are a subjective assessment about useability, look, and social responsibility. There’s no rubric or scoring; this is just how they made me, as a veteran sports bettor, poker player, and casino afficionado, feel. 

One note: BetRivers is not included here because as of early April, its app was exclusively for Android devices. That may seem unfair, but I’m baffled as to why BetRivers, which has iPhone betting apps for other states, wouldn’t have been as ready as all these other entities when Michigan turned on the spigot.

Anyhow, here are three quick tips that might help as you venture into this world: 

• Turn off all the push and email notifications. You don’t need them. You can decide when you want to play and on what you want to bet without all that temptation and pressure. In many cases, you give the app permission to bombard you with messages when you check a list of boxes as you sign up that also include attesting to being over 21 and physically in Michigan, so it may seem like you have to agree to all the texts and emails to sign up. You don’t. I skipped that every time and still set up my account.

• While this roundup focuses on how the mobile apps work and handle, it is easier to do the sign-up on a proper computer than on a phone because there’s a bit of typing that makes a real keyboard your friend. It also makes it easier to open another browser page and look up what the casino’s current promotional offerings and codes are. They tend to change frequently.

• That said, it may be best to ignore the gazillion special offers coming at you and settle on one or two apps you find pleasing to look at and navigate. No matter how attractive the offers are, you can rest assured the casinos are probably not giving you anything out of the goodness of their hearts. Most offers are much more complicated than they seem; one $10 free slot play offer I saw actually meant I got the $10 only after I played $500 but figuring that out took a great deal of digging around in the fine print.


Ranking Your Betting App Options

Disclaimer: Some betting apps have been making adjustments since they debuted this winter. All details found in this ranking reflect what we found when we used them in February and March.

1. FOX Bet/ PokerStars

betting apps - fox bet sportsbook Michigan partner: Odawa Online

Minimum deposit: $10 

Minimum withdrawal: $1

What’s good: For about two months, PokerStars was the only legal online poker site in Michigan, and its integration with FOX Bet is mostly lovely and seamless. Deposit in either the FOX Bet or the PokerStars app and you can access the money from both. The efforts to remind people about “responsible gambling” are more aggressive than in any other app; every time you log off or on, you’re offered the number for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Problem Gambling hotline. What’s more, in the desktop version of PokerStars, there is a link appearing on every poker table that takes you to phone numbers and live online chats from both the National Council on Problem Gambling and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

What’s not: The FOX Bet casino is more limited than others, with no video poker options. Also — and this is not FOX Bet’s fault — as of spring 2021, players in Michigan can only play live poker with one another online, although the Michigan Gaming Control Board is working to create compacts with other states where online poker is legal, including Pennsylvania, Nevada, and New Jersey. There also is a glitch where you cannot get to the sportsbook from a poker game without logging out of the poker game/area, which means you can’t place sports bets without leaving your poker games. And, finally, the app asked me to agree to push notifications, and evidently saying “no” once — or six times — isn’t enough. It still keeps asking.

Visit mi.foxbet.com for more information. 

2. PointsBet

pointsbet - betting apps Michigan partner: Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa

Minimum deposit: $5

Minimum withdrawal: $5

What’s good: This is just a sportsbook, at least for now, and I like it that way. No casino games, no poker, no cacophony of distractions — just straight-up sports wagering. The app is very user-friendly for easy deposits, withdrawals, and wagers. It’s also just not as fussy as most of the others — no efforts to send a barrage of push notifications or texts or a whole lot of emails — and it boasts a fun feature where users can suggest prop bets. That’s how I came to put $5 on either Gonzaga or University of Michigan to win March Madness for a big $12.50 payout. By the time you read this, we’ll know if I hit it big on that one. 

What’s not: It’s a personal preference thing, but the advertising campaign with the evidently trademarked “make it rain” cliché just grates on me — and is unavoidable. They also could make the responsible gaming information easier to find. Also, unlike all but one other app, PointsBet does not provide an option to log in using your fingerprint — at least on iOS devices, so you’ll be typing in your password every freaking time you stop by.

Visit mi.pointsbet.com for more information. 

3. BetMGM

bet mgm - betting apps Michigan partner: For sportsbook and casino, MGM Grand Detroit so, really, none. For poker, partypoker.

Minimum deposit: $10

Minimum withdrawal: $10

What’s good: This app is cleanly designed and comes with the most trusted name in all of casino gambling. MGM Resorts International owns most of the Las Vegas Strip in addition to its properties in Detroit, the Washington, D.C., area, and Atlantic City, so racking up points in its MLife loyalty program by using the app may be worthwhile. The app has all the cool frills — almost-up-to-the-second animation of in-progress sporting events, options on some bets to cash out before the game is over to either accept a smaller payout or hedge your losses, fun prop bets.  In the early going, the app made finding both problem gambling information and the funds withdrawal difficult to find, but they’ve remedied that; the problem gambling hotline now comes at you whenever you log out.

What’s not: The poker offering is a major disappointment, at least in the early going. At the launch in late March, there were hardly any players. That might have been remedied if they’d put some marketing muscle behind that part sooner. In a race between this and the FOX Bet/PokerStars offering, BetMGM’s functionality of game play — when you can find enough people to play against — is just underwhelming. On mobile, you cannot choose to fold to any bet, interact with other players beyond a pre-set array of phrases and emojis or even — and this is so baffling I was sure I was doing something wrong — play on landscape orientation.  There also is no bridge between the poker app and the casino/sportsbook app, although you do see and can spend your balance from either. Finally, there’s an option to share your sports bets with friends — basically it generates a link that’s supposed to show whoever you send it to what you’ve wagered on — but when I tried it, the links either expired very quickly or took you to pages where it was unclear what I was trying to show my friends.

Visit sports.mi.betmgm.com for more information. 

4. DraftKings

draft kings - betting apps Michigan partner: Bay Mills Resort & Casinos

Minimum deposit: $5

Minimum withdrawal: $1 via PayPal, $15 via check

What’s good: This is a great option for low-stakes players. In the sportsbook, for instance, you can bet as little as 10 cents. Since DraftKings started out as a fantasy betting site, it makes sense that it allows for folks to create their own leagues in the app. Also, there’s some hometown pride, perhaps, in the fact that the site hasa partnership with the Detroit Pistons, although it’s unclear how or whether that fact has any benefit to Michigan customers.

What’s not: The app is very cluttered, confusing to navigate, and extraordinarily eager to point you to its blackjack games with ubiquitous, often oddly placed links. Also, the responsible gaming messaging is fairly invisible; where the problem gambling helpline phone number appears, it’s not hot-linked, so you have to write it down and dial it yourself, which seems unnecessary given you’re already on your phone.

Visit sportsbook.draftkings.com for more information. 

5. Barstool Sportsbook & Casino

barstool - betting apps Michigan partner: Greektown Casino

Minimum deposit: $10

Minimum withdrawal: $10

What’s good: This is a pleasant-looking app that’s easily navigable and allows sports bets as small as 10 cents. And Barstool takes responsible gaming seriously; after a half-hour playing video poker, the app alerted me to the amount of time I’d spent logged in and how much I’d wagered — along with a hot-linked phone number to call for help. Also, because Barstool is related to the popular sports website,
fans may find it fun to
make wagers in the section where you can “bet with” various Barstool personalities — as in, put your money on some bet they’ve also allegedly placed but with enhanced payouts.

What’s not: On Super Bowl Sunday, the deposit process failed. Money put in via PayPal and ACH did not appear until the next day even as the PayPal one was immediately deducted. A customer service guy named “Fred” via online chat answered my question about the delay by popping in to say he was “aware of the issue” but vanished before I could ask anything else. The deposits did go through by the next morning, which, of course, was too late for the bets I’d hoped to place. I tried the app two months later during March Madness only to find it refused to let me place a bet on grounds I didn’t have enough money. Yet my balance on the same screen showed otherwise. 

Visit barstoolsportsbook.com for more information. 

6. FanDuel

fanduel - betting apps Michigan partner: Motor City Casino

Minimum Deposit: $5

Minimum Withdrawal: $1

What’s good: The app is tied into the MotorCity Casino Rewards program, so locals who have a fidelity to that resort can build up their loyalty credits online, too. The responsible gaming section is rare in that it provides numbers for both a suicide prevention hotline and Gamblers Anonymous. There’s also a link to a live chat function with a counselor from the National Council for Problem Gaming. (That chat function is not optimized for mobile devices, but that’s not FanDuel’s fault.) 

What’s not: FanDuel is a bit…needy? I hadn’t been on for more than a minute before it started pestering me to rate it in the Apple Store. And, oddly, given that the company’s origins in fantasy sports are the same as DraftKings’, the app doesn’t seem to have any of the capabilities to create fantasy leagues or partake in them. If it’s there and I couldn’t find it, shame on them.

Visit fanduel.com for more information. 

7. TwinSpires

twinspires Michigan partner: The Hannahville Indian Community of the Potawatomi

Minimum deposit: $10

Minimum withdrawal: $10

What’s good: This app is fine. Serviceable. Does all the things the others do. And it’s kinda cool that you can bet on professional ping pong if that’s a thing you like.

What’s not: It is stupidly easy to accidentally create an account on and deposit money with TwinSpires’ horse-racing app before realizing that it’s not the same as the sportsbook and casino. The customer service folks were great about fixing it — they’re mailing me a check to defund my horse-betting account after admitting to me this happens a lot — but TwinSpires needs to learn from the FOX Bet/PokerStars arrangement and make the two apps operate seamlessly. Finally, it should be noted that unlike most of the others, this app views itself as a casino-games app first and makes it surprisingly difficult to find the sportsbook.

Visit twinspires.com for more information. 

8. William Hill

william hill - betting apps Michigan partner: Turtle Creek Band of Chippewa

Minimum deposit: $20

Minimum withdrawal: $20

What’s good: William Hill is a longtime sportsbook provider for hundreds of brick-and-mortar casinos across several states, so the sportsbook odds are a pretty good barometer of how a critical mass of bettors are wagering.

What’s not: This thing was super glitchy. It froze while I was making my first deposit, so after waiting a bit I clicked two more times. Turned out, that meant I had made my deposit three times. When I went to the online chat to complain, the queue was so long I would’ve missed the chance to place bets on the games I wanted. What’s more, the promotion advertised on the front of the site for new players brought me to a screen that said the offer was “no longer active.” Not good. Oh, and I can’t understand why anyone would use this app with its Michigan-high minimum deposit and withdrawal requirements when they
can place the same bets on sites that are happier to give you back your money at more reasonable thresholds.

Visit williamhill.com for more information. 

9. Golden Nugget

golden nugget Michigan partner: Ojibwa Casino & the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community

Minimum deposit: $10

Minimum withdrawal: $10

What’s good: This app takes responsible gambling seriously, with a more prominent and easy-to-understand option for “cooling off” — which is to say, self-selecting to be locked out for a period between three and 30 days. 

What’s not: The array of sports to bet on seems more limited than other apps, and there’s no video poker in the casino. Also, there’s no Touch ID for passwords or any way for the app to even remember your email address, so you’ll be typing both in every time. But here’s the big problem: Remember my complaint about how confusing all the promotions and bonuses are? Well, Golden Nugget gave me $30 in bonus “money” when I deposited $10. I played some video blackjack and started out losing a bit but then went on a good run. When I stepped out of the game, I found I had no “real” money left, but I was up to $40 in bonus “money.” Then, when I went to the section of the app where it should explain how that bonus stuff works, I hit a message that the page I was looking for “does not exist.” The live chat was equally useless; I gave up on that after about 15 minutes of waiting for a representative.

Visit mi-casino.goldennuggetcasino.com for more information. 

10. WynnBET

WynnBET Michigan partner: Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of the Chippewa Indians

Minimum Deposit: $10

Minimum Withdrawal: $10

What’s good: Almost nothing. If you’re a fan of the Wynn casinos — and the ones in Vegas and Macau are best-in-class to be sure — you’ll like some of the familiar design elements. Otherwise, the only surprise is that a brand known for upscale elegance is willing to let you bet as little as a penny on video slots and as little as a dime for a hand of video blackjack. Oh, and you can bet on women’s college basketball, which is unusual. 

What’s not: This thing is a hot mess, which, come to think of it, the brick-and-mortar casinos’ websites also were when they launched way back when. The deposit and withdrawal methods are more limited — no PayPal, no American Express — and the app’s customer service folks redirect everyone with problems with deposits or withdrawals to a third-party entity. In my case, the system they use to connect to bank accounts refused to accept my driver’s license number and banking information for set up, and when I asked why, I was told to contact “VIP Preferred,” the financial transaction provider. This is idiotic, confusing, and cumbersome. If I have trouble on your app and there’s a support button, whoever comes on when I push it should be able to resolve my issue. What’s more, once you’re in the support chat, you cannot leave and return to the app without shutting the app down and coming back in. Seriously. I tried this several times. Dead end. And, finally, the responsible gaming information is extremely hard to find; it hides at the bottom of a scroll-down “my account” menu. Oh, it’s also at the bottom of the logout message — just below the more prominent question: “Logged out by mistake?” No other app is so sleazy about trying to keep you from leaving. (Disclosure: I own Wynn stock in my IRA. Nonetheless, I hate this app.)

Visit mi.wynnbett.com for more information. 


If you or someone you know needs more information on gambling addiction, call the Michigan Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-270-7117.

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Steve Friess is news and features editor at Hour Detroit and a contributing writer for Newsweek. A Long Island native who earned a journalism degree at Northwestern University, Friess worked at newspapers in Rockford, Illinois, Las Vegas, and South Florida before launching a freelance career in Beijing, China, where he served as chief China correspondent for USA Today. After his return to the U.S. in 2003, he settled in Las Vegas, where he covered the gambling industry and the American Southwest regularly for The New York Times, Playboy, The New Republic, Time, Portfolio, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, New York magazine, and many others. During that time, he created and co-hosted two successful and groundbreaking podcasts, the celebrity-interview show The Strip and the animal affairs program The Petcast. In 2011-12, Friess landed a Knight-Wallace Fellowship for mid-career journalists at the University of Michigan. That was followed by a stint as a senior writer covering the intersection of technology and politics at Politico in Washington, D.C., In 2013, he returned permanently to Ann Arbor, where he now lives with his husband, son, and three Pomeranians. He tweets at @SteveFriess and can be reached at sfriess@hour-media.com.