For the last decade, PokerStars has risen through the ranks as a poker-only internet gaming site. That unwavering blueprint has been incredibly successful for years. But now, for the first time ever, the world’s largest online poker room is doing the one thing we never thought we’d see; adding a casino suite to the platform where members can download blackjack and roulette for real money play.
The roll out of online casino games has been provided only to residents of Spain for the time being, via the PokerStars.es website. Spain currently promotes a ring-fenced iGaming market, making it the perfect testing ground for the site’s new blackjack and roulette offerings. PokerStars intends to expand its online casino campaign throughout other European markets in the future, with Italy being the most likely candidate for the second phase of the launch.
Some find it surprising that PokerStars has deviated from its longstanding and oft-times publicized intentions to remain a poker-only gaming website, but considering the potent transition the brand underwent in 2014, it really shouldn’t come as a shock. PokerStars’ parent company, Rational Group, was acquired by the Canadian-based Amaya Gaming earlier this year; a company that’s been dipping its toes into the online casino software business for years. The online poker operation’s sister-site, Full Tilt, also under ownership of Amaya via the Rational Group, established its own online casino games – originally restricted to blackjack and roulette as well – in February of 2014 (pre-acquisition). Put it all together, and PokerStars Casino was the inexorable future of the brand.
Members of PokerStars will have access to a throng of blackjack variations. Current renditions include Micro Blackjack, American Blackjack, Classic Blackjack and Surrender Blackjack. As the name implies, micro blackjack is suitable for all bankroll sizes with bets starting as low as €0.10. American and classic blackjack games have minimum wagers of €1, while surrender blackjack offers a €2 minimum and the option to surrender a two card hand (before taking any other actions) and lose only half the original bet.
There is only one version of roulette supplied by PokerStars’ new Spanish online casino. As you probably guessed, it’s European Roulette. Most online gambling sites will throw in at least the American version of the game, but anyone who understands the logistics and expected payout percentages of roulette would never intentionally choose to play the American format; certainly not when European roulette is available. PokerStars’ roulette games offer all of the common betting options, plus partial wheel bets, as often found in French roulette, including Zero, Voisins du Zero (neighbors of zero), Tiers du Cylindre (Thirds of the wheel) and Orphelins (orphans).
At PokerStars Casino, all blackjack and roulette games are available in single-player or multi-player modes. Those who wish to maintain a pace of their choice with no interruptions or delays can play against the dealer in single-player mode, while members who prefer a more social experience can join up to 4 other players at the multi-player tables.
PokerStars first began its trek into the online casino market back in July, appealing to Spanish gaming regulators for a license to expand its limited offerings throughout the country. Gino Appiotti, President of PokerStars’ Southern European venues, said at the time, “PokerStars aims to remain as the number one poker operator in Spain,” but added that company officials, “strongly believe that in this market, adding casino games is the best way to serve players.”