PokerStars, the biggest online poker website in the world has confirmed that it will pull out its PokerStars.fr platform from Austria. The PokerStars.fr is a French regulated platform that providers online poker players in Austria a platform to play online poker.
The company recently announced that it will be no longer be servicing players from Austria citing a change in gaming regulation. It announced this via an email to all its players registered in Austria and has stopped services from the 1st of March 2016.
The site has assured its players that PokerStars.fr will remain accessible for them to use their StarCoins for purchasing anything except online tickets in their VIP store. It has also said that any remaining tournament tickets would be automatically converted into Euros. The company has made it clear that balances cannot be transferred to accounts on other licenses.
The initial speculation by players was that the change was due to a recent tie-up between Playtech and Win2Day, the sole licensed site in Austria, under which Playtech would provide its iPoker client to the site.
An email received from PokerStars customer service team however clarified the issue saying that the reason was a recent decision by the Austrian government to levy tax on gaming transactions by players located in Austria. It said that the tax was in addition to what the site was paying to the French authorities for play on the site, making it unviable.
In a statement, PokerStars said, “It was unsustainable for PokerStars to pay double tax to both the Austrian and French Governments for play by Austrians on PokerStars.fr. Consequently, we have little choice, and need to stop allowing players with a registered address in Austria to play on PokerStars.fr.”
According to French law, online poker operators pay a tax of 37 percent on gross gaming revenues. Austria charges 20 percent tax on all gaming transactions entered into by its residents. The country does not exempt online gaming from the EU VAT Directive which specifies that companies are required to pay VAT as per the rate fixed by the country where players are resident.
PokerStars similarly pulled out of United Kingdom (UK) in 2014 after the UK government decided to enforce the United Kingdom Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014. Under the new law, it levied 15 percent as Point of Consumption Tax on online gaming operators. In response, PokerStars.fr informed the players registered in United Kingdom that it was stopping services in September 2014, a few months before the implementation of the law.
Such restrictions are leading to a reduction in site traffic for the site, impacting the player pool and growth of the PokerStars brand.