PokerStars Launches Online Poker and Casino in Michigan
Who’s excited about the expanding US online poker market? PokerStars certainly is. It launched its online poker site this week in Michigan, the first to do so under new state regulations. It shouldn’t be a surprise, though, as it was the first one to launch poker online in Pennsylvania…and remains the only one more than one year later.
This says something about the operator. Sure, it says they want to make money, but PokerStars and FOX Bet can do that quite handily with their online casino and sports betting sites. Those are the big money earners.
Online poker in the US state-restricted market has shown itself an outlier, a bonus for the poker base. Of course, when the states get themselves together and join forces to share poker tables across state lines, the money will be better. But for now, PokerStars including online poker in its initial launch is for the fans. It shows that they still remember the game that started it all.
Opining aside, let’s get to the launch details.
A Year of Waiting
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed the Lawful Internet Gaming Act in December 2019. As it typical, there was a waiting period before implementation and then months of paperwork to devise the final draft of the rules and regulations.
In Michigan, there was also the case of interstate online poker. The original bill did not permit online poker liquidity – poker sites sharing tables across state lines – but an amendment to that bill worked its way through the Michigan legislature in 2020. Whitmer signed it in December 2020.
With all of the pieces of the puzzle in place, including provisional licenses and behind-the-scenes preparations, some sites were ready to go at the start of 2021. Several operators launched online casinos and sports betting on and after January 22.
On Friday, January 29, PokerStars surprised everyone with its announcement. Along with partner FOX Bet, they launched online poker, casino games, and sports betting for players located within the borders of Michigan.
Welcome to the table. 🤝
PokerStars, Stars Casino, and @FOXBet are now live in Michigan.
— PokerStars (@PokerStars) January 29, 2021
A Partnership Takes Shape
Just days into 2020 and weeks after Michigan legalized online poker, The Stars Group revealed its partnership with the Little Traverse Bay Band of Odawa Indians (LTBB Odawa). Since every online gambling operator must partner with a land-based entity, PokerStars and FOX Bet went with one that had two casinos.
LTTB Odawa Gaming Authority oversees two Odawa Casino locations, one in Petoskey and the other in Mackinaw. It looks like Petoskey is the one with a poker room, at least one that holds a place on its website.
The casinos’ websites are not yet connecting to the Stars and FOX Bet internet gaming sites. However, there is always a period of testing the sites and working out any initial bugs before pushing the advertising and promotions.
On January 29, 2021, the Michigan Gaming Control Board announced the launch that day. MGCB Executive Director Richard Kalm welcomed them to the market and noted that revenue will support education and tribal communities alike.
PokerStars was, in fact, the first online poker room to launch, though it was the ninth online casino.
Preview of Action to Come
PokerStars was anxious to talk about the poker tournament series and opportunities for poker players on PokerStars MI. The first major series, it seems, will be MICOOP, the Michigan Championship of Online Poker. It will be Michigan’s version of the global WCOOP, NJCOOP for New Jersey, and PACOOP for Pennsylvania.
Cash games and tournaments are live. There is already a schedule of Sunday Majors tournaments set to debut soon, including the Warm-Up, Storm, Sunday Special, High Roller, and Supersonic. The Daily Bigs are already underway, starting with the Morning Big $10 each day and offering Bigs throughout the day with buy-ins from $5 to $20. There are also the daily Hot Turbos, Bounty Builders, Nightly Stars, and Moonlight Express.
Players can deposit via Visa, Mastercard, Paysafecard, PayPal, Skrill, Vanilla Direct, and bank transfers. Withdrawals are available via PayPal, Skrill, and bank transfers.
Two promotions are on the site to welcome players. One comes with deposits of $20 or more, which awards $30 in free play. The other option is the 100% bonus, with PokerStars matching any deposit up to $600.
Players are already out in force, with more than 800 of them at the tables on the Saturday afternoon of January 30. The player pool began building just hours after launch on Friday before doubling time and time again as the weekend hit.
How is PokerStars doing on Day 1 in Michigan?
From a poster on TwoPlusTwo: "Player pool is over 200 players and there are nearly 20 cash game tables running … almost all six-max NLHE."
— Brian Pempus (@brianpempus) January 30, 2021
— Tim Bishop (@Bishop847) January 30, 2021
The first day of action presented its fair share of glitches. Initially, there were some problems with credit card and PayPal deposits, and automatic player verifications were slow to recognize some customers. Keep in mind that the PokerStars team has been trying to rectify issues as quickly as possible and will work out the kinks quickly.
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