EU countries France, Italy, Portugal and Spain team up for online poker player sharing model.
Due to variable regulatory initiatives, regional interest in online poker has fluctuated enormously over the last decade. In the US, the number of players has dropped to almost nothing. In Australia, participation is high, but pending legislation may soon prohibit the activity. EU countries have been struggling for years. But in the UK, numbers soar every higher.
How is it that the United Kingdom is thriving, while its neighbors in European Union countries have experienced steady decline for the last 5 years straight? The answer a simple one – player pooling.
Player Pooling vs Ring Fencing
Every jurisdiction that regulates online poker has to decide how it will manage its players. There are two basic options – player pooling and ring-fencing.
When a country can chooses a ring-fencing framework, only players within that country are eligible to participate. This is the model EU countries have been enforcing for years now.
Alternatively, a jurisdiction can initiate a player pooling framework. In this case, online poker players from numerous countries are allowed to participate on the same poker network(s). This is the model chosen by the UK. And so long as the operators obtain a UK licence, they can accept UK players.
The UK won’t offer a licence to just anyone, though. The operator has to maintain a high standard of business practices. Consumer protections are paramount. Operators can welcome players from other countries, but cannot accept players from any jurisdiction where online poker is explicitly forbidden.
For example, an online poker site that accepts players from the US state of California, where online poker is currently illegal, would not be able to acquire a UK licence. Accepting online poker players from Australia is fine, because the activity is not illegal here—at least not yet.
EU Countries Dump Ring-Fence for Player Pooling
Ring-fenced markets have proven only mildly successful at best—utter failures at worst. None know this better than the EU countries of France, Italy, Portugal and Spain. Each has struggled for years to sustain players in their respective ring-fenced poker markets.
That struggle may soon come to an end, following ARJEL’s announcement of an online poker player sharing compact between the four countries. The French gaming regulator confirmed that a shared liquidity deal has been reached.
This is great news for online poker players in France, Italy, Portugal and Spain. Once the borders are opened, more poker networks are likely to apply for licences in all four countries. Increased competition always translates to better benefits for consumers, especially in the promotional arena.
Online Poker Player Sharing to Spread?
So far, the UK is the only jurisdiction to use this model. Once EU countries have had time to assimilate to online poker player sharing, the results could impact other countries like the Australia and maybe even the US.
If the new framework comes anywhere near being as successful in France, Italy, Portugal and Spain as it has been in the UK, other regulators are sure to take notice.
Could it be enough to convince Australia that online poker is worth regulating? Will Canada decide to open its doors to international operators? Might this be the catalyst for the other 47 US states to join Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey in regulating online poker? Only time will tell.