Europe’s segregated online poker markets are moving steadily closer to merging their player pools, Daria Petralia, Head of Online Gaming at Italy’s gambling regulator – Agenzia delle dogane e dei Monopoli (ADM) – revealed on Tuesday.
Speaking at an online gambling conference at the Polytechnic University of Milan and cited by Italian poker news outlet AssoPoker, Ms. Petralia explained that there have been ongoing discussions on the realization of the shared liquidity plan and that significant progress has been made so far.
The Italian iGaming official further noted that they are set to present their analysis on the matter during a meeting that will be held in May in Brussels. Italy’s regulator will also introduce its version of a regulatory framework that contains provisions as to how online poker shared liquidity operations will be conducted between Italy-facing operators and their counterparts from the ring-fenced markets of Spain, Portugal, and France as well as from the UK iGaming market.
According to figures from a recent report on the state of Italy’s iGaming industry, the amount of €1.03 billion was generated last year by licensed online gambling operators, up 25% year-on-year. And although the overall picture presented was rather bright, online poker alone did not perform that well last year. Poker operators generated a total of €138 million, down 5% year-on-year.
It can be said that online poker in Italy, France, and Spain has not delivered very impressive results since the iGaming markets of all three countries were regulated. Many have attributed this to the fact that all three markets are segregated in one way or another and offer players somewhat limited competition opportunities.
As mentioned above, Portugal has also been taking part in the ongoing shared liquidity discussions. The country’s gambling regulator – Serviços de Regulação e Inspeção de Jogos (SRIJ) – issued the first online poker license last November and PokerStars became the first operator to enter the newly regulated (and ring-fenced) market.
In January, SRIJ submitted a technical standards framework to the European Commission in relation to the country’s plan to enter into shared liquidity agreements with other European jurisdictions. The EC approved Projeto de Regulamento que define os Requisitos Técnicos do Sistema Técnico do Jogo Online early in April, which means that Portugal can now start the process of sharing player pools with other countries.
Last summer, France adopted amendments to its gambling law that allowed the French gambling regulator – ARJEL – to discuss shared liquidity agreements with other regulated markets. In November, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and UK gambling regulators announced that they had made important progress toward achieving the shared liquidity goal and that first agreements may be reality by the end of this year’s first half. It now seems that the upcoming Brussels meeting will be of particular importance for the realization of the plan.