Casino Gran Madrid’s online poker room, which happens to be the third biggest in Spain, will be shut down on July 31. The casino says that it is no longer able to “provide an attractive product in a hostile environment.”
The poker site, which belongs to the iPoker Network, lags behind 888.es and PokerStars.es as far as traffic is concerned although a few hundred poker players play there at peak hours. This peak-hour traffic is insufficient for the poker site to survive in a ring-fenced and highly taxed market.
Operators of poker sites in Spain are required to pay as much as 25% on their gross gambling revenues as taxes. Spanish players, therefore, have to pay higher rake. For example, PokerStars.es pay up to 5.35% as rake with a cap placed at €3.00 or $3.30 per hand. In other words, the rate is 20% to 40% higher than the rake charged at PokerStars.com.
Operators of Spanish online poker rooms also have to heavily cut down on promotions and bonuses in order to survive. In addition, high tax rates of 20% on poker winnings is making regulated poker in Spain less attractive to its residents, forcing many of them to sign up at unregulated offshore online poker sites.
Last year, the Institute of Policy and Governance of the Charles III University of Madrid and the CODERE Foundation of Spain conducted a joint study on the behavior of poker players in Spain. They discovered that 43% of Spanish online gamblers played at unregulated offshore online gambling sites and were least bothered about their country’s efforts to regulate gambling. Twelve percent of them even admitted that they preferred to play only at offshore online gambling sites.
The study also revealed that 27.4% gamblers had hardly any idea about the location of the online casinos and online poker rooms they played at. And 43.8% said that they believed these companies to be located in Spain.
Casino Gran Madrid sent an email to its customers urging them to use their poker balance at its online casino. However, players who preferred to withdraw their money can do so. The casino has instructed players to convert their loyalty points to cash before August 31. If they fail to do so, they would lose their points.
The casino has also said that it may re-launch its online poker site when it is finally able to give its players “a more attractive offering.”