PokerStars brings its online poker product to a third state; MI now has 11 online operators active in the state

PokerStars Launches First Online Poker Room in Michigan, Casino and Fox Bet Sportsbook Live

You can add PokerStars and Fox Bet to the list of operators that have now launched in Michigan.

The swift launch will be pleasing to gamblers who lamented the fact that last week’s iGaming launch included Michigan online casinos and sportsbooks but not Michigan online poker at first. PokerStars was evidently waiting for its poker product to complete testing so that it could launch all three verticals at once.

PokerStars first in state to shuffle up and deal

Indeed, the two brands and three verticals were all rolled out at 11 a.m. Friday, though the company’s formal announcement of the launch came later in the day. The Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) did make a brief statement, however.

“We welcome the addition of Odawa Casino, Poker Stars, Fox Bet, and Barstool Casino to Michigan’s growing online gaming and sports wagering market,” said Richard S. Kalm, MGCB executive director. “Their participation will generate revenue to support education, tribal communities, and the city of Detroit.”

The mention of Barstool Casino refers to its impending arrival on Monday. Michigan will be the first state in which Penn National launches a casino product under that brand rather than its usual Hollywood Casino product.

Michigan is the third state in which US poker fans can now play on PokerStars, following New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Users can create a single account to access all three products from a shared wallet.

While several other operators beat PokerStars and Fox Bet to launch online casinos and sportsbooks last Friday, PokerStars wins the race to open the first legal online poker room in the state. There are now 10 brands to choose from in the state for online casino and 11 for sports betting.

BetMGM Poker appears a good candidate to be the second online poker room in MI. Like PokerStars, BetMGM received conditional approval of its operator’s license from the MGCB in early December 2020.

PokerStars has already indicated that several Michigan-based tournaments and series “with big prize pools and exciting guarantees” are scheduled to arrive this spring. In all likelihood, the first will be a MISCOOP (short for Michigan Spring Championship of Online Poker) to go along with NJSCOOP and PASCOOP, which ran in April last year.

Launch day hiccups

Although the PokerStars MI website went live at 11 a.m. EST, most players were not able to get up and running right away.

There were two separate problems:

  • Many payment options, including Visa, Mastercard, and PayPal, did not work.
  • Most players had difficulty downloading the client.

The latter was the larger barrier, though it did have a workaround. Players unable to download the client needed only to clear their browser cache, but many probably gave up before discovering this.

Fortunately, the client download issue has now been resolved, though some reports of deposit issues continue. PokerStars sent out a press release formally announcing its launch at around 3:30 p.m.

As important as poker is to our readers, the company’s focus in Michigan looks like it will be sports betting first and foremost.

“The key differentiators for us have always been our valued partnership with the Fox Corporation and the strength of our industry-leading Fox Bet Super 6 product combined with the PokerStars business, and we plan to lean into these unique assets as we launch in Michigan,” said Kip Levin, Fox Bet CEO. “Behind Fox Bet Sportsbook, PokerStars, and Stars Casino, customers create one account for all three apps, unlocking a wide variety of exciting and entertaining options to supercharge the experience for our Michigan audience.”

PokerStars MI joins New Jersey, Pennsylvania sites

When the online gambling doors finally swung open in Michigan, PokerStars was in fact the very first operator to find a partner there.

Just two weeks after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the state’s online gambling bill into law in late December 2019, PokerStars partnered with the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians. The tribe operates the Odawa Casino Resort near Petoskey on the northern coast of the Lower Peninsula.

By then, PokerStars had already joined forces with Fox Bet, in May 2019. Later that year, Flutter Entertainment acquired The Stars Group, with the sale completed in May 2020.

The partnership with the Odawa tribe follows a similar pattern to that of PokerStars working with smaller casinos in other U.S. states.

In New Jersey, PokerStars partnered with Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City. The PokerStars NJ site first went live in March 2016.

In Pennsylvania, the land-based partner is Mount Airy Casino Resort in Mount Pocono. PokerStars PA first opened in November 2019. So far, the PokerStars site remains the sole online poker room operating in the Keystone State. However, both partypoker and appear poised to launch there in 2021.

For now, Michigan players will be stuck competing against their peers in the state. However, lawmakers did pass a bill allowing for interstate poker in the future. The MGCB has indicated that it is already in talks with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement and may be ready to allow sites to network with that state by year’s end.

Stars Casino, Fox Bet Sportsbook also live

Much as in NJ and PA, the integrated PokerStars Casino Michigan features a variety of popular casino and table games.

Meanwhile, Fox Bet Sportsbook offers traditional single-game wagering, in-play betting, futures betting, and more across a range of different sports and leagues.

Michigan is the fourth state where Fox Bet Sportsbook has launched. It also operates in all the same states as PokerStars, plus Colorado.

- Martin Harris is a writer and teacher who has reported on poker, online gambling, and sports betting since the mid-2000s. Once a full-time academic (Ph.D., English), he currently teaches part-time in the American Studies program at UNC Charlotte. His book Poker & Pop Culture was published by D&B Books in 2019.
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