BetMGM is readying to launch BetMGM MI Poker. It was anticipated at the end of February; though it has been slightly delayed, it is expected to launch any day now.
It will become only the second operator to go live for Michigan online poker, and that raises the question—just how well will the new operator do expanding into markets already occupied by tough competition?
PokerStars currently has exclusive access to the Michigan poker market, having launched in late January. And they are still the only option for online poker in Pennsylvania, enjoying a de facto monopoly for well over a year.
BetMGM will be jumping into this mix. Does PokerStars have an insurmountable lead in the market already? PokerStars had a huge launch in Michigan, headlined by the inaugural Michigan Championship of Online Poker (MICOOP). The first MICOOP smashed early guarantees, then proceeded to smash newly doubled guarantees for later events.
There is no doubt that PokerStars had a great start—any new operator has to play a lot of catch-up already. But data from New Jersey shows that there is every chance to cut into such market leads.
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BetMGM’s Stellar 2020 in New Jersey
In fact, the situation has played out before. When PokerStars NJ entered the New Jersey poker market in 2016, they quickly jumped to the top of the pile, and held that pole position for nearly two years.
Ultimately, the 888poker US Network, a combination of 888poker NJ and WSOP NJ, took over the lead in 2018, a place it holds today. This change was somewhat inevitable: It operates the only cross-state network, with a player pool shared with Nevada and Delaware. That, the power of the WSOP brand and the unique ability to run official bracelet events online, makes it tough for the competition.
But perhaps the real surprise in this market is that PokerStars (shown under its partner Resorts in these charts) has fallen into last place—with the partypoker US Network jumping in front of it.
Despite its name, the partypoker US network—which combines liquidity between Borgata Poker, BetMGM NJ Poker and partypoker NJ, all reported under the Borgata license—currently only operates in a single state, New Jersey. And they have been bottom of the market for a long time.
But in late 2020 its fortunes changed. In fact, in terms of year-over-year increase, BetMGM and their partner rooms were the winners, nearly doubling their take from 2019 with 92% increase in revenue growth, the best of the three.
That was mostly down to a huge end to the year, when revenue numbers soared. In November 2020, they booked a revenue increase of more than 135% over the previous November.
At the end of Q4, it reported more than double revenue for the entire fourth quarter compared to 2019. This was enough to bring it neck-and-neck wither PokerStars in September and then, finally, in December 2020, it took second place position.
It was the first time it has overtaken PokerStars in the five-year market history.
This goes to show that early leads and branding is not everything. The three brands at partypoker US Network have been chipping away at this lead, running their own large tournament series and promotions. The latest revenue figures show the network closer to the market leader WSOP/888 than they are to their previous rival, PokerStars NJ.
Michigan is roughly the same population as New Jersey, so the market size is very similar, and there is little doubt about the hunger for poker in the state.
Capturing New Territory
BetMGM have already proven themselves capable of capturing significant market share in New Jersey, and with the software base that has already been battle-tested in the Garden State, they stand a good chance of grabbing a big piece of the action in Michigan.
That also bodes well for future plans in Pennsylvania. While there are few details yet about a PA launch, it seems clear BetMGM has designs on that market as well. There is every reason to think they can parlay their recent New Jersey success into new markets.
The proof of the pudding is, of course, in the eating, and there will be a lot of work to do to capture market share. Game choice will be a large factor in the success of BetMGM Michigan Poker, so players can likely expect some big tournament series through the year in Michigan.
The new competition will almost certainly benefit the players, but operators have a lot to gain from healthy competition as well. Each site will be looking to capture as much of the new markets as possible, and that will lead to bigger guarantees and better bonuses for players across the board as operators fight for their poker dollars. That drive for market share will fuel the growth of the operators themselves.
Who comes out on top from the operator perspective is yet to be seen, but getting a new name like BetMGM at the table is only going to be good for players.