Digital barriers that have separated major European online poker markets may soon be knocked down after France, Italy, Spain and Portugal signed an agreement on 6 July.
The accord signed by regulators of each country marks a huge step forward for online poker liquidity sharing in the EU – in other words, allowing licensed operators to combine player pools from across the four countries.
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.
French regulator ARJEL said in a statement: “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.”
Liquidity sharing between the countries is expected to create a southwest European online PokerStars network – the second biggest in the world.
However, the agreement will only create a framework for cooperation and negotiation between the regulators in each country. It is now up to those bodies to hash out the details of implementation for the next steps in the process.
It is hoped that July’s agreement will jolt the online poker industry in Europe, which has suffered from falling revenues as a result of poor online traffic.
France, Italy and Spain regulated online gambling from 2010 to 2012, largely at the orders of the European Commission, which ruled that monopolised, restrictive gambling laws were at odds with European Union principles on the free movement of services.
Although new regulations opened up their markets to foreign operators, they also chose to ring-fence those markets. As online poker depends on inter-country player pools, the barriers had an adverse impact on the industry.