PokerStars Makes Its Long-Awaited Launch in Ontario

To celebrate its Ontario launch, the Flutter brand will host an exclusive special launch series, the Ontario Platinum Series, from July 10-18 with $1 million guaranteed. It also plans to run a flagship tournament every Sunday with $100k on offer.
the words "GAME ON, ONTARIO" are seen on a red background with the PokerStars logo in the middle of the O and the CN Tower on the I
June 28, 2022

In many respects, Ontario is our home market, given the first-ever hand of PokerStars was played here over 20 years ago, so we are thrilled about the new regulated environment within which our players can play. PokerStars Ontario has officially launched in its Canadian “hometown.”

Nearly three months after the province’s regulated markets for online poker, casino gaming, and sports betting opened, the Flutter brand made its long-anticipated market entry for poker on Tuesday.

“In many respects, Ontario is our home market, given the first-ever hand of PokerStars was played here over 20 years ago, so we are thrilled about the new regulated environment within which our players can play,” said Tom Warren, Group Marketing Director for PokerStars.

“A lot has changed in that time, but our commitment to offering our players the most epic and thrilling experience in the market hasn’t — and we can’t wait to get started.”

Special Series to Celebrate Launch Scheduled for July 10-18

The international poker brand wasted no time getting off to that start.

PokerStars said it would host a special launch series, the Ontario Platinum Series, from July 10 through 18. The series will exclusively be for Canadian players and feature a $1 million guaranteed prize pool. A full schedule for the series has not yet been released.

Separately, PokerStars is also planning the Ontario Championship of Online Poker (ONCOOP) series, with a guaranteed prize pool of $2 million.

PokerStars also teased that it plans to offer Ontarians “epic events and experiences” throughout the summer. The operator said its reward program would give players double rewards through July and August. It will also launch a new weekly flagship event, New Sunday Market Majors — a special Sunday tournament with a $100k guaranteed prize pool.

PokerStars Took Different Approach to Ontario Launch

PokerStars is a late arrival to Ontario’s online poker scene. It will also be the province’s fifth poker room and third online poker network.

Two of its rivals — the 888poker Ontario app and the BetMGM Poker Ontario app — launched on April 4 and 5, respectively — the first and second days for the market.

Operator AGCO License iGO Agreement Launch Date Network
888poker Yes Yes April 4 Segregated Independent
BetMGM Yes Yes April 5 Segregated BetMGM Network
partypoker Yes Yes April 12 Segregated BetMGM Network
bwin Yes Yes April 12 Segregated BetMGM Network
PokerStars Yes Yes June 28 Segregated Independent
GGPoker/WSOP Yes No TBD Grey Market (for now)

Entain brands bwin and partypoker, jumped in on April 12. Their entry created an unusual dynamic unique to Ontario: a three-skin online poker network with BetMGM, a 50-50 joint venture between Entain and MGM Resorts International.

That said, PokerStars never wavered from its posture that the brand’s familiarity with Ontarians — it has been a grey market operator in the province for years — meant that it didn’t have to jump into Ontario’s regulated space when the market first opened. PokerStars also said it wanted to wait on an Ontario launch until after its Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP) series had concluded.

Operators must be licensed by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) and execute an operating agreement with iGaming Ontario (iGO) before launching in the province. The AGCO issued PokerStars a two-year license on June 8, but the iGO did not have PokerStars listed on its website as a regulated site as of Tuesday afternoon.

iGO will likely take great care in eventually listing PokerStars. The regulator kicked up a cloud of confusion in early April when it briefly had a list posted to its website showing operators that had started the licensing process but had not yet finished. Despite assurances leading up to the incident that it still planned to launch, PokerStars wasn’t on the list, which was quickly taken down.

GGPoker is the Last Holdout

With PokerStars officially in the mix, GGPoker remains the last online poker operator to deploy in Ontario.

NSUS Limited, the parent of GGPoker, was issued a one-year license by the AGCO on March 2. However, it has not yet executed an operating agreement with iGO, which means it is not allowed to launch.

GGPoker plans to launch using the domain through a partnership with the brand. The partnership shows WSOP plans to utilize GGPoker software when it launches in Ontario. The deal is surprising because up until that point, it was assumed that WSOP would use 888 software — as it does in the US — and be able to create a network and share liquidity with 888poker.

_Learn more about Ontario’s newest and hottest online poker room in pokerfuse’s comprehensive PokerStars Ontario Review »_

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