PokerStars became the first online poker operator to be given the green light to participate in the shared online poker liquidity project. France’s online gambling regulator ARJEL issued on Thursday an order authorizing the poker room to merge cash game pools from the countries that participate in the scheme.
Malta-based REEL MALTA LIMITED, the company representing PokerStars, was given the nod by the French regulatory body on several conditions. The online gaming operator must ensure that its brand only shares liquidity within the borders of the jurisdictions that participate in the project. What is more, PokerStars’ software used for the purpose will need to receive additional approval by the responsible gambling regulators.
REEL MALTA will also have to inform ARJEL of any changes that may occur in future in relation to the operator’s participation in the shared liquidity project.
It was back in July when the gambling regulators of France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal signed the shared online poker liquidity agreement that would allow operators in all four jurisdictions to merge their player pools. The move was undertaken after proceeds from cash game poker in France, Italy, and Spain shrunk significantly over the past years.
It can be said that Portugal is still a nascent online poker market, as the country currently has a single licensed poker operator (PokerStars), which was issued its license last December. However, it shares a common feature in its regulations with the above-mentioned three jurisdictions. The online poker markets of all four countries are ring-fenced, which means that only residents of each respective country are allowed to play on locally licensed websites.
When Will the Project Be Officially Launched?
With PokerStars now being given the green light to participate in the scheme, we can suggest that it will be launched not too far from now. Here it is important to note that of all operators that may be interested to take part in the project, PokerStars is the only one to be licensed in all four countries. What is more it is the largest poker operator in some of them, and is the sole poker operator in Portugal, as mentioned above.
The shared online poker liquidity project was originally hoped to be materialized by the end of the year. However, unplanned delays in some of the participating jurisdictions postponed the eventual launch of the shared liquidity network to a later point.
According to recent media reports, France, Spain, and Portugal are targeting an early 2018 launch. However, it is believed that Italy might be able to join the scheme only later in the year.
The country’s gambling regulator is yet to open the bidding process for Italy-facing operators to renew their licenses and for new operators to be able to enter the local market. It is believed that this might be one of the reasons why the country will join the shared liquidity network later than initially hoped. Here it is also important to note that Italy’s participation in the scheme was broadly contested by local lawmakers, who voiced concerns that the project could create favorable conditions for illicit gambling activities.
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