The online poker industry in Italy, Spain and France has suffered during the last 3 years as online poker revenues have plummeted and online gaming operators have found it difficult to boost their revenues as the markets have remained sluggish due to poor online traffic and players being reluctant to spend at regulated online poker websites.
Portugal also joined the three countries and entered into discussions of fixing the decline in online poker and the obvious solution was to entered into an online poker liquidity agreement that would allow the four countries to link their respective online gambling markets, thereby increasing the player database, providing better competition and more prize money to players and giving online gambling operators the opportunity to expand their market share.
Online Poker Liquidity Agreement
The four countries have had a number of discussions regarding an online poker liquidity agreement and based on feedback from the latest talks, that agreement is likely to be signed on July 6. The online poker liquidity will be only between the four countries and will not include any other countries that are not ring faced. Hence the agreement is likely to benefit online poker players in Europe only due to this restriction. The four countries released a joint statement confirming the same.
The joint statement said “The Italian, French, Portuguese and Spanish online gambling regulatory authorities will sign an agreement concerning online poker liquidity sharing on 6 July 2017 in Rome. This agreement will set the basis for cooperation between the signing Authorities in this context and will be followed by further necessary steps within each of the jurisdictions involved in order to effectively allow for liquidity poker tables.”
Regulated Gaming Not Very Attractive To Players
Gaming regulators in France, Portugal, Spain and Italy had put in place regulations that were extremely stringent and also restricted each country from linking their markets. Online poker players did not find the regulations and conditions very appealing and as a result weren’t very keen to play at legalized websites. This hurt online gaming operators and also the government who lost out in gaming taxes as online poker players were willing to risk playing an underground websites even though they knew they were illegal.
Winamax.fr which is the biggest online poker website in France has around 900 cash game players on average when compared to PokerStars – the biggest online poker website in the world which averages around 11,000 cash game players. Winamax.fr was restricted to operate only in France and will now be able to expand its operations once the agreement is signed. PokerStars offers services in Italy and Spain and brings in around 650 players per day based on a 7 day average.
2016 Digital Republic Act
The 2016 Digital Republic Act which was signed in October by the four countries has made the conditions for online poker liquidity very clear. We list the key points that all four countries have accepted as part of the online poker liquidity agreement.
Point 1: Online poker liquidity can only be established amongst European nations who have similar gaming regulations as the four countries in the agreement.
Point 2: Shared liquidity or Mutualisation is a European agreement and hence is authorized to take place only amongst countries belonging to the European Union and states that fall into the European Economic Area.
Point 3: Players will have to go through an identification and verification process before registering accounts with gaming operators in any of the four countries. Only audited and approved players will be given access to the online poker tables in the shared liquidity setup.
Point 4: Gaming operators will be able to serve all four markets only if the liquidity sharing agreement has been approved by the four countries and will be subjected to gaming regulations based on a cooperation agreement.
Operations Will Launch Most Likely In 2018
While the agreement between the four countries is scheduled to be signed on July 6th, it is highly unlikely that the linking of the four markets will take place in 2017. This is because trade agreements have to be made, operators have to go through a licensing and approval process and technology and software changes have to be implemented. Online poker players in these four countries will most likely be able to take part in shared liquidity markets in 2018 only.
 

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