Just over a month since Spain and France merged their online poker player pools, Portugal is about to join them. On Friday, the Serviço de Regulação e Inspeção de Jogos (SRIJ), the country’s gaming regulatory body, published its technical standards framework for shared player liquidity. The next step is for Portuguese players to join Spanish and French players at the tables.
In mid-January, PokerStars became the first online poker room to host players from France and Spain at the same virtual tables. Prior to that moment, the two countries, along with Portugal and Italy, had ring fenced their players from the rest of the world, allowing them to play only on country-specific sites.
The four countries announced an agreement to share liquidity in July 2017 and wanted to merge their player pools by the end of the year, but obviously were not quite able to do so. Portugal clearly lagged behind Spain and France slightly, but is now expected to join them – almost certainly on PokerStars – within the next few days.
Roughly translated using the handy-dandy Google Translate and smoothed out by yours truly, the framework says that the SRIJ will make games and bets available between:
1. players registered on a “.pt” domain that is licensed to offer online gambling in Portugal;
2. players registered in the “.pt” domain and players whose access is established outside the Portuguese territory and which are registered in another domain under licenses issued in accordance with jurisdictions where online gambling and betting and shared liquidity are admitted under the law and / or its regulator.
The key online gambling product here is online poker. While online casinos (those that offer games like slots and blackjack) obviously want lots of customers, the actual functioning of their games is not dependent on player traffic. Customers can easily and happily play at tables by themselves and have the same experience they would if there were other players present. In fact, people might prefer to play alone, as they don’t have to worry about someone making an incorrect play in blackjack or wasting time at the roulette table.
With poker, though, player traffic is of the utmost importance. Cash games only run if there is more than one person at the table, multi-table tournaments often have registration minimums, and Sit-and-Go’s don’t start until they are full. And though cash games can operate with just two players, most people would much rather play at full or near-full ring game tables. Thus, if a site doesn’t have steady player traffic, the tables will be mostly empty, resulting in potential new players staying away and the tables remaining mostly empty.
Thus, shared liquidity is important. The larger a potential player base a country has, the more traffic its poker sites will have. Portugal by itself has struggled to supply players to online poker rooms, but with Spain and France to help (and hopefully Italy later), the poker rooms should be much more viable.