Global Glance: Portugal Delays, Winamax Aims for Spring

Global Glance: Portugal Delays, Winamax Aims for Spring
Everyone is talking about European online poker liquidity

The weekly Global Glance takes a look at the online poker scene around the world. What happens with online poker and gambling beyond America’s borders can and often does impact the state of online poker in the United States.

Over the last week, it has become apparent that Portugal is anxious to join the European online poker liquidity network but continues to experience delays, while Winamax is pushing hard for licenses to join PokerStars on that network within the next few months. Speaking of struggles, Belgium’s case against the European Commission regarding online gambling regulations was denied by the high court, and Sweden finally announces a licensing process for operators as numbers show unregulated gambling continues to drive its market.

Portugal Sets Records but Struggles with Liquidity

Last week, we reported that online gaming revenue was up in Spain and France in 2017, a good sign for the industry as a whole and encouraging for the online poker liquidity project.

This week, Portugal announced that it joined the same club. Servico Regulacao e Inspecao de Jogos do Turismo de Portugal, the regulator better known as SRIJ, reported record numbers for 2017 with €122.6 million generated throughout the year.

As with Spain and France, sports betting was the primary revenue earner, but online casino games – which include poker – were not far behind with €54.4 million. Slots brought in 45% of that number, but poker cash games delivered 19.7% of it and poker tournaments 6.7%, far ahead of roulette and blackjack. Though PokerStars is the only poker operator in the Portuguese market thus far, the numbers are significant.

SRIJ was also busy publishing the technical standards for its participation in the online poker liquidity network alongside France, Spain, and Italy. Since France and Spain have only launched with PokerStars thus far, Portugal will join that particular European network as soon as PokerStars includes players from that market.

Further delays have been reported because of missing software certifications as part of the technical requirements requested by SRIJ. The biggest problem, however, could be the “Seat Me” function at the PokerStars tables. The automatic seating has been introduced in a number of markets to prevent professional players from preying on recreational players by seeking them out at the tables, but “Seat Me” hadn’t yet been introduced to the Portuguese market until very recently. The integration of the program must be tested before it merges with another market but is required to be a part of the PokerStars shared poker market in Europe.

PokerStars emailed its Portuguese players with an update on the shared market, anticipating the opportunity for players to compete against the Spanish and French must wait until March 6.

Winamax Anticipates Spring Participation

Winamax is anxiously awaiting the opportunity to expand its online poker domination beyond France’s borders, but it may take a few months. Though French regulator ARJEL did approve of the move, there are numerous steps for Winamax to take.

The French online poker giant applied for internet licenses in Spain and Portugal but has yet to receive notices of approval to launch poker sites. Winamax is going to use its ownership of Bet-at-Home’s poker site in the Italian market to join tables, but Italy has been lagging far behind the other three countries with its licensing and framework requirements for liquidity.

Analysts predict Winamax will join the liquidity network within the next two months, but it all hinges on the ability to expedite processes in Spain, Portugal, and Italy.

EU Court Rejects Belgium Case

The Belgian government has been struggling with its online gambling laws for years and contradictions with the overall guidelines set forth by the European Commission for EU member states. Belgium fought the 2014 guidelines, claiming they infringed upon Belgium’s sovereignty and ability to regulate its own market. So, they took their case all the way to the European Court of Justice (CJEU).

The high court rejected Belgium’s case this month, stating that the European Commission had not shown any overreach with its guidelines for online gambling consumer protections.

The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) agreed with the decision and wants to see the guidelines adopted by all member states. The group feels that all forms of online gambling should enforce a higher level of consumer protection guidelines.

Sweden Opens Licensing as Unregulated Gaming Reigns

Online poker, bingo, and casino games operators will be able to apply for new online gambling licenses beginning July 1. The application process will be overseen by Swedish gambling regulator Lotteriinspektionen.

The regulator has been working closely with the Swedish government to develop the online gaming framework that will be detailed in the new internet gambling laws to be introduced on January 1, 2019. However, not only are the regulations not finalized, Camilla Rosenberg of Lotteriinspektionen noted even the published law may not be clear enough and could be adjusted in 2019. “Not everything will be clear from day one,” she said. “The entire reform will be evaluated over a three-year period.”

Meanwhile, however, the latest the latest numbers from the regulated market thus far still show serious problems with unlicensed operators continuing to dominate.

Lotteriinspektionen’s final statistics for 2017 showed a market worth SEK17.07 billion (approximately $2.09 billion), though that was down 1% from the previous year. And state-run Svenska Spel generated 40% of the annual revenue and experienced no growth, while unregulated online gambling operators grew 13% and generated SEK5.534 billion (approximately $678.5 million). Many unregulated companies continue to provide options for Swedish players, as the window for license applications does not even open until July 1.

About Jennifer Newell

Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world as she also launches a new subscription box company and finishes her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including PokerStars.com and has followed the US poker and gaming market closely for the last 15 years. Follow Jen on Twitter

Disclaimer: The information on this site is my interpretation of the laws as made available online. It is in no way meant to serve as legal advice or instruction. We recommend that you seek legal advice from a licensed attorney for further or official guidance.

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