BetMGM goes all-in on online poker, giving Michigan card sharks a second option

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

The poker tables in Michigan are about to get more crowded, at least virtually.

MGM Grand Detroit joined the online-poker resurgence Monday, through its BetMGM app, joining PokerStars as the two offerings since the state launched online gaming and sports betting in January.

The companies offer a variety of poker options, mostly Texas Hold 'Em and Pot Limit Omaha, via cash games or tournaments, with a number of low-stakes and high-stakes options.

BetMGM had added online poker to its app.

BetMGM was among the eight original operators approved by Michigan in January, and has offered sports betting, online slots and table games like blackjack and roulette.

“The launch of BetMGM Poker in Michigan fully rounds out our premier gaming portfolio in the state,” Adam Greenblatt, CEO of BetMGM, said in a statement. “BetMGM’s sports betting and casino offerings have been met with incredible early success in Michigan and we’re thrilled to provide players with another exciting gaming option.”

Michigan joins New Jersey as the two states offering poker through BetMGM. At BetMGM and PokerStars, Michigan players can only play against other Michigan players.

Poker has long been a booming business in Michigan, with interest spiking after World Series Poker Main Event wins by Joe Cada (Shelby Township, 2009), and later Ryan Riess (Clarkston, 2013).

Downtown Detroit's three casinos have had to expand their floor space over the years because of the interest, particularly amid rising bad-beat jackpots. MGM Detroit, Greektown Casino and MotorCity Casino have all reopened their live poker rooms after months of shutdown from the COVID-19 pandemic. The in-person tables feature glass dividers between seats, and increased sanitation efforts.

No need for any of that online, of course.

"The demand for online poker in Michigan was made clear by players across the state," Ray Stefanelli, director of poker for BetMGM, said in a statement. "BetMGM Poker is proud to offer them a seat at our tables and we’re confident that BetMGM Michigan customers will enjoy an engaging, reliable and fun poker experience.”

The World Series of Poker app, one of the biggest operators, is expected to join the Michigan ranks, but no date has been set. When WSOP goes live, discussions could ramp up about interstate gaming, which is appealing to the best poker players because it would increase the cash stakes and tournament prize pools.

BetMGM Poker in Michigan, meanwhile, is giving new players a $25 bonus, as well as a 100% deposit match, up to $600. There also will be a $50,000 free-roll tournament Sunday, April 4.

Online poker has returned to Michigan for the first time since April 2011, when the U.S. Department of Justice shut down the nation's bigger operators in a day that came to be known as "Black Friday."

Since launching two months ago today, just in time for the Super Bowl and NCAA Tournament, online gaming and sports betting have brought in nearly $20 million in tax revenue for the state of Michigan. The windfall is helping make up for the tens of millions in lost tax revenue in 2020, from the pandemic.

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Twitter: @tonypaul1984