(20.09.2016) Could Segregated Online Poker Markets Join the International Player Pool Soon?



A potentially monumental meeting took place in Paris Sept. 12-14 when gaming regulators from Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom met to discuss common concerns, including shared poker liquidity.

A brief press release by the French gaming regulator Autorité de régulation des jeux en ligne(ARJEL) said it this way: “[The] informal talks held on this occasion namely related to standardization, anti-money laundering and anti-financing terrorism, sport betting risk analysis, poker shared liquidities and responsible gambling.”

Almost all of the regulators from the group were from countries that prohibited fully shared liquidity with the United Kingdom being the sole exception. Joss Wood mentioned in a recap of the meeting on Online Poker Report that it is now “largely accepted” that less poker taxes are collected in segregated markets. He points out that the crux of this issue is that players are offered a more expensive product with less liquidity, which then leads players to potentially explore options from unlicensed operators offering gray market services.

“Spanish, Italian and French regulators, who have the longest experience of operating poker regulation that segregates the player pool, are united in believing that segregation was a mistake,” Wood added.

France recently took steps to open up its online poker liquidity. A bill was passed into law by theFrench Senate in May that permits shared player liquidity with other countries in the European Union and the European Economic Area. Since it is restrictive to these areas, it may prove to be prohibitive for this to have a major impact on an international scale with all the major international networks offering services outside of Europe. However, it is possible under current law for French regulators to strike an agreement with other state regulators currently restricting operators to a ring-fenced environment which could at least improve the situation with greater liquidity.

The other main hurdle that may hinder the chances of global shared liquidity is the differentiation of poker taxes and how different countries apply VAT to online gaming services. A solution to this would be to increase rake across the board to cover for residents where taxes and VAT are high and increase the rebate through rewards programs to players in countries where these fees are less burdensome.

In any event, it doesn’t appear international shared liquidity will happen soon. ARJEL announced that the next meeting between the regulators is scheduled to take place in 2017. A more likely scenario in the near-term would potentially be some movement in shared liquidity on a more localized basis between ring-fenced countries.

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