● Six months has passed since four countries signed an agreement to share online poker player pools yet only two are ready to share.
● France and Spain are ready to go but domestic delays as slowed progress for Portugal and Italy.
● Portugal edges closer to a resolution whilst Italy lags behind.
Six months after four countries signed a historic agreement to share online-poker player pools, only two nations are ready to accommodate shared liquidity. This could also happen to new casinos in the future.
In the face of falling revenues, the European poker industry rejoiced when France, Italy, Spain and Portugal signed the shared-liquidity pact in Rome. Yet coming in to 2018, just France and Spain are now ready to share poker-player pools. Domestic legal wrangling in Portugal and Italy are causing delays and while Portugal edges closer to a resolution, Italy has made little progress in the face of opposition to the move.
France and Spain set launch dates
Spanish and French regulators both welcomed the New Year by announcing the passing of resolutions to meet the terms of the shared-liquidity agreement. In France, Autorité de régulation des jeux en ligne (ARJEL) says that jointly-run poker tables will be available to players in both countries.
In Spain, the resolution will come immediately into place when the Directorate General for the Regulation of Gambling (DCOJ) publishes its official State Gazette of Spain in late January.
Both countries’ gambling regulators are optimistic that the agreement will gives poker players access to a wider range of games and will boost the capacity for innovation. This in turn should breathe new life into the ailing poker industry.
Italy’s part of the deal in jeopardy
If Portuguese poker has been slow to prepare for its role in shared liquidity, its Italian counterpart is at a complete standstill. In fact, the pact between the four countries has been met with strong opposition from powerful figures in Italy.
Giuliano Frostini, Director of Public Affairs at International Game Technology (IGT), is among the loudest opponents of the shared-liquidity agreement. IGT is a huge slot-gaming company with offices in Las Vegas and London, in addition to a large presence in Italy. As a result, the company wields considerable influence.
Frostini feels that the rules of the pact are too stringent and will undermine those in Italy, which he believes could restrict IGT’s ability to make profit.
Frostini reached out to the Italian government for help and has received backing from Franco Mirabelli. The Italian senator who has voiced concerns about how criminals could use shared liquidity for money laundering. Mirabelli believes that the agreement could also present greater risks for players as rule violations are harder to police across borders.
Portugal will join the party eventually
After considerable delays, Portugal’s Assembly of the Republic has at last amended its 2018 state budget to include the costs of preparing for shared liquidity. Despite this, the bureaucratic licensing process is causing further delays as only 11 operators have received the appropriate licenses since the application deadline in 2016. Until Portugal grants more licenses, it may not be able to move forward with its part of the plan.
Poker operators ready to go
Despite issues in Italy and Portugal, operators are nonetheless preparing to accommodate the cross-border player pool. For example, PokerStars are keeping to a strict timetable and will be ready to launch shared liquidity in France and Spain from the outset. Meanwhile, major delays in Italy have not deterred 888 Holdings or Winamax from preparing to expand their reach into the country.