Amaya Inc. announced on Tuesday that it has gotten PokerStars up and running in Portugal after an Amaya subsidiary, REEL Europe Limited, was granted the country’s first online poker license. The license is for both poker and casino games and permits PokerStars to offer Hold’em and Omaha cash games, poker tournaments, blackjack, and French Roulette.
In a press release, the company said:
PokerStars will maintain the very highest levels of player fund protection by segregating Portuguese player funds under trust agreements, as is done in all markets where PokerStars offers its products. In the meantime, while Portugal remains a closed liquidity poker market, PokerStars intends to actively work with applicable Portuguese authorities to help further develop and enhance the Portuguese regulatory framework for poker, including, without limitation, through the promotion of shared liquidity.
“We are very happy to offer the world’s leading online poker brand to Portuguese players under a local regulatory framework that ensures rigorous consumer protection and gaming integrity,” added Eric Hollreiser, Vice-President of Corporate Communications for Amaya. “This approval demonstrates our commitment to the responsible growth of online gaming by supporting local regulation that protects players, creates a viable marketplace and provides revenue for local governments.”
Legalized, regulated online poker has been in the works for a long time in Portgual. The game was approved in the spring of 2015, but the regulations needed to be approved by the European Union. Thus, there were some delays, but in December 2015, Serviço de Regulação e Inspeção de Jogos (SRIJ) Director and Head of Online Gambling Manuela Bandeira dropped a bomb at the GamblingCompliance Regulatory Briefing in Lisbon, announcing the Portuguese players would be ring fenced from the rest of the world after everyone thought Portugal would have shared liquidity.
That prompted the Portuguese Player Association, ANAon, to urge its members to boycott Portuguese sites (once those sites got going) as long as they remained ring fenced. The group then published three points:
• Portuguese online poker players will refrain from playing on Portugal-facing sites if those sites are not open to players from other countries.
• An online poker market with only Portuguese players will not work for the game.
• The boycott is intended to let the Portuguese regulatory body, the Serviço de Regulação e Inspeção de Jogos (SRIJ) that players will not use such rooms or rooms that are in the “style of the French model that foreigners provided they register at the Portuguese platform.”
It was reported this summer that the SRIJ had decided to allow for shared liquidity, but as of now, PokerStars Portugal players will still only be able to play against other players within Portugal’s borders. It should be sustainable – Portugal is larger than New Jersey and online poker is working there – but shared liquidity would obviously be better. Additionally, the federal taxes are steep: 15 percent on sites with revenues of over €5 million and 30 percent for revenues over €10 million.