PokerStars Launches BetStars Rebranded Sports Betting Site

PokerStars announced on Friday that it has launched its new sports betting site, BetStars. It is only available in select jurisdictions right now, but PokerStars has plans to open it up to more areas as 2016 progresses. PokerStars has offered sports betting before this, but on PokerStars sub-domain sites. The new sites can be found on the domains,, and

BetStars launches with nearly 30 sports available for wagering, including favorites such as football, soccer, and basketball, as well as the growing e-sports category. Horseracing and other sports are expected to be added later in 2016.

“We’re very excited about the launch of the BetStars brand, and expect it to be one of the most talked about sports betting sites in 2016 as it continues to evolve with new products and features that we believe will set us apart as a betting brand for the true sports fan,” said Rafi Ashkenazi, CEO of Rational Group, PokerStars’ parent company, in a press release. “We’re applying the same dedication and passion we have for poker to sports betting, and intend to create an authentic, world-class offering. The BetStars brand will build on this passion and provide a safe, trustworthy and, most importantly, exciting environment for sports fans.”

BetStars will clearly try to pull in its current poker and casino customers, especially since players can use the same funds for all gaming on the Stars family of sites, but in the aforementioned press release, the company also said that it plans to launch “an external customer acquisition campaign” in the first half of 2016. It should be interesting to see how this will play out, as Europe (clearly the initial target area for BetStars) is an extremely competitive sports betting market with the likes of William Hill and Ladbrokes battling it out.

Interestingly, unlike with PokerStars’ casino and flagship poker site, it does not appear that people in the United States (and perhaps other countries which are not included in the initial BetStars rollout) can even pull up the site just to look at it. This writer tried to access all three BetStars sites only to get a “Secure Connection Failed” error with each one. Despite not being able to play at PokerStars proper, it is still no problem to at least jump on the website and read up on what’s going on. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter, as U.S. residents won’t be able to play on the sites, anyway, but sometimes it’s just enjoyable to look at things you can’t have, like when my kids go to PetSmart during puppy adoptions.

The closest PokerStars and its ultimate parent, Amaya Gaming (Amaya bought Rational last year, which owned PokerStars), has come to launching a sports betting site in the United States is when it acquired Austin, Texas-based daily fantasy sports (DFS) site, Victiv. It then rebranded it as StarsDraft (see a naming pattern developing?) and relaunched the site in September.

starsdraft bannerVictiv had a solid reputation as a very customer friendly site with an easy-to-use interface and little changed when it was rebranded. One initial hiccup, though, was that with the PokerStars brand name and a launch promotion came an influx of players, particularly because the transition happened just in time for the first week of the NFL season, the most popular sport for fantasy. StarsDraft’s servers couldn’t handle the traffic very well and seized up during the hour leading up to the kickoffs of the early slate of games opening weekend. StarsDraft apologized, fixed the problem, and awarded free tournament tickets as compensation.

Amaya/Stars has been very careful not to get on the bad side of state governments and gaming regulators in the U.S. as it works hard to get back into the market, so it initially banned players from Michigan (and Canada) even though Michigan had no laws prohibiting DFS. The director of the Michigan Gaming Control Board, though, had recently said that it was his opinion that DFS was illegal, so it looks like StarsDraft was playing it safe.

Barely a month after launching in the U.S., StarsDraft decided to play it even safer amid growing DFS controversy that included scores of bad press and consumer lawsuits and stopped operating in all but four U.S. states: New Jersey, Kansas, Maryland, and Massachusetts. Since then, StarsDraft has all but dropped off the daily fantasy sports map, understandably struggling to draw players. When it first launched its rebrand, its headliner contest was a $10 buy-in, $100,000 guaranteed prize pool NFL tournament. That guarantee was eventually bumped up to $150,000; not close to what FanDuel and DraftKings offered, but solid for a small site. Now, with only players from four states able to participate, that same $10 “First Down” tournament has a guarantee of just $2,000.

Players from the 46 states that were banned were able to withdraw their funds without a problem.


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