SI Casino MI Faces Closure as 888 Ends Deal with Authentic and Exits US Market

Jessica Aletor
Jessica Aletor


  • Authentic Brands Group is set to receive a $50 million termination fee after 888 Holdings opted out of a 20-year Sports Illustrated deal signed in 2021.
  • SI Michigan now seeks a new operator for sportsbook and online casino license as state braces for a new license slot becoming potentially available.
  • Available statistics show that Sports Illustrated platforms have consistently performed below expectations since launch.

Michigan’s online gambling industry is about to be significantly affected by a new development arising from outside the country. Early last week Wednesday, 888 Holdings in Britain announced an end to its partnership with Sports Illustrated. This new announcement is a result of the international sports betting and gambling company’s effort to completely exit US markets.

The effect of this new development will definitely be felt locally. This is because of the inevitable closure of Sports Illustrated Casino Michigan and Sports Illustrated Sportsbook Michigan. Prior to this news, Michigan was host of SI’s only online casino product. The online casino was launched in the second month of 2023 and replaced TwinSpires.

888 To Pay $50 Million For Premature Deal Termination After US Market Exit 

International gambling enterprise 888 Holdings has announced its decision to bring its collaboration with Authentic Brands Group, the proprietor of the Sports Illustrated brand, to an end. This decision is part of 888 Holdings’ strategy to withdraw totally from the U.S. market.

The original deal was struck in 2021 and allows 888 Holdings to exclusively use the Sports Illustrated brand for its online gambling and betting services. During this rather short-lived partnership, SI sportsbook went live in Michigan, Virginia and Colorado. However, SI Casino MI was the only online casino under the brand.

The arrangement was originally set for a 20-year duration according to details of the agreement at the time. However, since the Gibraltar-based sports betting company is exiting the deal prematurely, it will pay Authentic a total of $50 million as termination fee. This payment will be made twice, with half the amount to be paid immediately and the other half due sometime between 2027 and 2029.

According to the CEO of 888 Holdings, Per Widerström, the company’s partnership with Authentic helped to generate a consistent and strong demand for the SI brand because of its product offerings and the experience it gave consumers.

“A series of record-breaking months for SI Casino has underscored the strength of the SI brand. However, despite these successes, we have concluded that achieving sufficient scale in the US market to generate positive returns within an accelerated time frame is unlikely,” Widerström said.

At the moment, there is no concrete timetable regarding when SI Sportsbook MI and SI Casino MI will cease to operate in The Great Lakes State.

Online Casino License Slot May Become Available in Michigan as SI Seeks Buyer 

This news will see some big changes come to Michigan. For starters, there will be more operator changes underway as SI seeks a new buyer for its Michigan license. It is a situation that echoes the recent acquisition of WynnBet’s Michigan license by Caesars.

Another possible outcome is that the state might be left with an open iGaming and online sportsbook license. That is if Sports Illustrated is unable to find a buyer and forced to completely shut its operations.

However, insider information from within Authentic Brands Group has it that the company is considering a new strategy.

This option is supposed to involve the distribution of Sports Illustrated content to various sportsbook operators on a non-exclusive basis. If this is implemented, it will be reminiscent of the deal between DraftKings and Barstool.

Overall, the year has not been good for the Sports Illustrated brand as a whole. A 10-year deal signed with licensing partner, The Arena Group, in 2019 was terminated. This happened after a $3.7 million payment was missed and numerous SI content providers experienced layoffs.

SI Sportsbook and Online Casino Unable to Meet Expectations Since Launch 

The experience of Sports Illustrated with its sportsbook and casino operations has been significantly below the expectations set when it acquired the license previously held by TwinSpires in 2022.

Interestingly, while TwinSpires was renowned for horse racing, it also faced similar struggles as SI before ceasing its operations in 2022.

The former online sportsbook was operated out of Island Resort & Casino and owned by Hannahville Indian Community. After shutting down, Sports Illustrated picked the license and launched SI Sportsbook MI in August 2022 and SI Casino MI in February 2023.

However, both businesses were not able to record much success. SI Sportsbook MI only managed to bring in $13.9 million in online bets, positioning it as the second lowest in the Michigan market with a mere 0.3% market share.

Also, SI Casino MI did not fare much better, generating just $15.8 million in revenue for 2023. This was the lowest among Michigan’s 15 operators and represented only 0.8% of the market.

Jessica is a news contributor to Gamble Online Michigan. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Economics but has over three years of experience working in the hospitality and gambling industry. Despite her core finance and investment banking background, she has been a casino feature writer for N1 Interactive Limited and multiple gambling affiliate sites. Her work has been featured on the bet365 blog, and Max Force Racing. She spends her time between Michigan and California, staying up-to-date on the latest industry developments