Regulators from France, Italy, Spain and Portugal finally signed their long-awaited poker liquidity agreement yesterday (Thursday) in a move operators hope will provide a boost to their businesses across the regulated markets in these countries.
The deal will allow operators active across more than one of the ring-fenced markets to merge their player pools.
According to French online regulator ARJEL, the regulators will “make their best efforts to enable effective implementation by the end of the year”, although given talks between regulators began back in 2012 there is a view from the player community that it may be “too little, too late” to reverse the decline in regulated markets.
Operators speaking to iGaming Business, however, were much more optimistic about the development and its potential to revive the regulated poker market in the four countries, where regulated sites have struggled to compete with non-regulated sites due to high tax rates and restricted player pools.
Yesterday’s news does nothing to change the former, but it will go a long way to changing the latter and PokerStars, in particular, is set to benefit.
For full comments and analysis from PokerStars, iPoker, Global Poker Index, PartyPoker and PokerScout, along with exclusive iGaming Business data, read the News Analysis (paywall)
Stars is the only operator across all four markets and leader in three of these, holding a share of 46% of cash games and 66% of tournament GGR in the largest territory of Italy, according to our new Italy Dashboard.
PokerStars’ vice-president of communications Eric Hollreiser said: “As supporters of smart and sensible regulation, and believers in the importance of pooled liquidity, PokerStars welcomes this progressive step forward and looks forward to working with our regulators to provide the best possible experience for players.”
And the optimism extends beyond the walls of PokerStars’ HQ, with network iPoker also having a significant presence in three of the four markets. Speaking to iGaming Business, Joerg Nottebaum, head of iPoker, said: “We expect to benefit significantly from a larger liquidity pool and, in turn, attract more operators in those regulated markets.”
However, one commentator pointed out that there are some technical issues to resolve for the pooling arrangement to be integrated across the full suite of poker products.
“It will be much easier to share liquidity for online tournaments than for cash games. Shared liquidity multi-table tournaments are likely to be the first games to be offered under this new agreement,” said PokerNews’ Joss Wood.
For more comments and analysis from from PokerStars, iPoker, Global Poker Index, PartyPoker and PokerScout, along with exclusive iGaming Business data, read the News Analysis (paywall).