PokerStars to Launch Czech Site This Week



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PokerStars announced this morning that it will be launching its new Czech Republic site, PokerStars.CZ, on Thursday, February 16th. The announcement comes two weeks after the world’s largest online poker room revealed that it had been granted a new Czech gaming license.

That license was issued January 28th, giving PokerStars permission to offer both online poker and online casino games in the Czech Republic. PokerStars said PokerStars.CZ would be ready a few days later, so this is a bit of a delay, but hopefully hasn’t been too big of a deal for Czech players.

PokerStars had previously served the Czech market, but when the country’s new gambling laws took effect on January 1st, it had to withdraw. The new laws, signed by Czech President Miloš Zeman in July 2016, require operators to hold a Czech gaming license. Previously, online poker was in a gray area, like in many countries, where operators could offer their services without a license, even if the activity wasn’t explicitly legal.

PokerStars became the first non-Czech gaming brand to be issued a license in the Czech Republic. The company has also applied for a sports betting license so that it can get BetStars up and running. On the casino side, PokerStars will only offer Classic Blackjack, Premium Blackjack, European Roulette and Double Ball Roulette, though it is looking to have more games approved.

“We are very proud to be the first online casino and poker operator to be awarded a license and support the newly regulated Czech market,” said Guy Templer, Chief Operating Officer, in a press release when the license was announced. “This underscores our commitment to supporting local regulations and obtaining local licenses wherever possible.”

For those who had PokerStars accounts in the Czech Republic before the new gambling laws took effect, it won’t be as simple as just downloading the new software and logging on. The new Czech regulations do not permit inter-account transfers, so players will have to cash out of their old PokerStars accounts, create new ones on the .CZ platform, and then re-deposit. PokerStars has sent e-mail to all of its Czech players explaining how to go about doing this.

It seems that the new gambling laws were a not-so-subtle way to try to rid the country of online gambling. They were introduced by Andrej Babiš, the Czech Finance Minister, who is staunchly anti-online gaming. As a way to discourage license applicants, the gaming tax was set at a stunning 35 percent of gross gaming revenue on any game that uses a random number generator. Companies also have to pay 19 percent corporate income tax.

PokerStars may be one of the few companies who can afford to pay more than half of its revenues in taxes. It would be surprising if any smaller operators jumped into the mix.

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