Global Glance: Portugal Joins Online Poker Network with PokerStars

Global Glance: Portugal Joins Online Poker Network with PokerStars
Global poker news centered in Europe this week

The weekly Global Glance looks 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.

Months after PokerStars merged its Spanish and French online poker markets, it finally received permission from the Portuguese regulator to bring Portugal into the mix. As Italy continues its delay, it is not expected to join the liquidity project until 2019. Sweden issued warnings last week to media outlets that advertise unlicensed gaming sites. And the UKGC and MGA both increased efforts to improve services and responsible gambling solutions.

Portugal Online Poker Drops

Several days ago, PokerStars announced that its shared liquidity network finally pulled Portugal into the mix. The Spanish and French markets had merged earlier in the year, and Portugal joined this week.

PokerStars is the only online poker operator in Portugal, so it has been tough to gauge the Portuguese markets ups and downs. But when the first quarter numbers came in for 2018, regulator SRIJ reported a 33% year-on-year drop for online poker. The market was definitely in need of a boost, and the merging of its internet poker players with those from France and Spain may have been the proper remedy.

Stars Group CEO Rafi Ashkenazi noted, “This is great news for players, who will benefit from larger player pools with bigger prizes, better promotions and a wider selection of games, which we hope will continue to deliver positive results in those markets.”

The kicker was that ring games were not shared, only tournaments at the time of the merge this week. The decision was due to the Portuguese regulator permitting only 5% rake. PokerStars met Portugal in the middle by dropping rake on Zoom games, which are now on the tri-country liquidity network, but other cash games remain separate for the time being.

Stars Group COO Guy Templer believes more cooperation with Portugal will happen. “We look forward to working with the Portuguese regulator to further improve the poker product offering to Portuguese players,” he said.

With tournaments combined, however, PokerStars announced the first series for the three countries. The Trio Series will run from June 3-13 with 78 tournaments and a €250 buy-in Main Event with a €500K guarantee.

Italy Poker Liquidity Delayed to 2019

The PokerStars announcement about Portugal was mostly positive but also included some disappointing news about Italy. “Italian regulators have yet to confirm details of the country’s involvement but are expected to join the other countries next year,” the Stars Group said.

Another statement mentioned that the company is keeping its fingers crossed that the Italian regulator has positive intentions about joining the multi-country poker liquidity market.

The notion that Italy is so far behind the other countries in its movement to comply with the liquidity agreement that it will be 2019 before anything happens indicates that no one is sure exactly what will happen. The Italian regulator has been unwilling to take the necessary steps toward liquidity or consult with countries like France and Spain that figured out the details many months ago.

Sweden Issues Advertising Warning

Swedish gambling regulator Lotteriinspektionen issued a statement regarding advertising of unlicensed internet gambling companies. The regulator sent warnings to 39 digital media companies that accept advertising money to promote gambling sites that are not licensed in Sweden but are intended to target Swedish customers.

At the current time, international companies do not have licensing opportunities in Sweden but will when the application window opens on August 1, 2018. This is in anticipation of the new law taking effect on January 1, 2019, which will launch the new licensing regime to welcome non-Swedish operators.

Meanwhile, however, the regulator is threatening non-licensed companies with warnings that may translate to fines.

UKGC Addresses Responsibility and Diversity

The UK Gambling Commission recently addressed the findings of the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board, which issued a progress report regarding gambling-related problems.

The UKGC reminded of progress being made but admitted to concerns as to a lack of expediency in their ability to implement the planned strategy. Amidst the final year of a three-year plan, the regulator stressed that cooperation will be required with other regulators, operators, consumer groups, and the government.

Meanwhile, the new head of the UKGC, Neil McArthur spoke recently about the need for the gambling industry in the UK to achieve a greater level of diversity and inclusion.

In keeping with the wishes expressed by predecessor Sarah Harrison, McArthur noted the links between diversity and performance and urged organizations to take steps toward new types of recruiting that will include a wider range of applicants and lead to a diversity of input for the industry.

MGA Moves on Self-Exclusion

The Malta Gaming Authority unveiled a plan to launch a new system for online gaming companies to use for self-exclusion. Players will be able to self-exclude from all sites at once instead of registering with each one for self-exclusion. This will reduce the pressure on the player.

The system requires a new technical framework, but the next few months will likely see a solution chosen and work underway to implement it.

The plan is a part of the MGA’s newer and stronger role as a regulator, which is a result of the new Gaming Act. The regulator will be able to officially use its powers to reduce problem gambling as well as to launch its new Player Support Unit to act as a mediator between players and operators with regard to disagreements.

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 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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