In July, France, Italy, Portugal, and Spain agreed to merge their online poker player liquidity finally doing something positive for poker players after years of each country being ring-fenced from the world. It now appears that Italy may be lagging in its ramp up toward shared player pools and the other countries may start without it.
We don’t know why the four countries decided to separate their players from each other and the rest of world, though one might guess it was something to do with lawmakers thinking their regulations are superior to everyone else’s, so letting players from other countries play in their market would…I don’t know. Whatever.
When the four countries signed their agreement in July, they issued a brief statement:
The 6th of July the French, Portuguese, Spanish and Italian online gambling regulatory authorities signed an agreement concerning online poker liquidity sharing.
This agreement aims at improving cooperation and information exchanges among the authorities to allow the liquidity sharing between licensed online poker operators, fighting the illegal market and fraud, guaranteeing player protection and the respect of the anti-money laundering prescriptions.
The concrete implementation of the sharing will depend on the regulatory requirements of each jurisdiction.
The authorities commit to make their best efforts to enable effective implementation by the end of the year.
As you can see from that last sentence, it was hoped that player pools would merge by the end of this year, but that isn’t going to happen. It now looks like early 2018 is when the borders will open, but it very well may be without Italy for a while.
The problem, according to CasinoNewsDaily.com, is that Italy has not even opened the license bidding process yet. Neither operators seeking to renew their licenses nor those looking to finally gain entry to the Italian online poker market have been able to submit bids and there is no way the process will be completed in time for early 2018 launch. The application process was expected to have opened in September.
Italian poker news site AssoPoker reported that ARJEL, France’s gambling regulatory agency, is definitely pointing at early next year as the target for shared liquidity and that ARJEL president Charles Coppolani has been reaching out to his counterparts in the other countries to see where they stand.
Reports say that France and Spain may launch shared liquidity together first and then Portugal would follow close behind. Italy would hopefully come onboard sooner rather than later, but it needs to get its house in order first.
As one might expect, PokerStars will be involved. In a recent earnings call, Financial Director Brian Kyle said that the world’s largest online poker room plans on being one of the shared liquidity operators. It is currently the only online poker operator that is licensed in all four countries.