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French, Spanish Regulators Take Steps Toward Shared Poker Liquidity

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  • PokerStars approved in France for shared liquidity, while Spanish gaming regulators open a new licensing window.

A landmark agreement was announced back in July between the gaming regulators in France, Italy, Spain and Portugal to allow shared player pools between players from the four countries.

The agreement called for shared liquidity to take place in the early part of 2018. However, there had been little movement, especially in Italy, where gaming regulators have yet to open up bidding for new licenses that was due to take place at the end of September.

This week, gaming regulators in both France and Spain took big steps to make shared liquidity more of a reality than just an agreement.

France Issues First Gaming License

The French gaming regulator ARJEL announced on Friday that authorization was granted for shared liquidity between the four countries to Reel Malta Ltd., the operator of PokerStars France and a division of the Rational Group, after its application was accepted. PokerStars is currently in the best position to take advantage of when the agreement becomes reality as it is the only group offering regulated online poker in all four countries.

According to iGaming Business, the major caveat by ARJEL is that the operator must ensure that operations are only between the four countries and not to the rest of the world.

For many years, PokerStars France allowed players outside of the country to play on the site provided that they had a European bank account. This practice ended in February 2017 when PokerStars France announced to this subset of players they would be prohibited.

Meanwhile, Winamax, the industry leader in France according to PokerScout, still allows players from outside of France as is their right per their license with ARJEL. That being said, Winamax has taken steps to prepare for shared liquidity including signing of Italy’s Mustapha Kanit and Spain’s Adrián Mateos as Team Pros and their acquisition of Italian gaming license of bet-at-home.

This may be a sign that in the near future Winamax may follow PokerStars France and prohibit players since it appears without doing so ARJEL will likely not permit them to share liquidity with players in Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Spain Opens Window for New Licenses

In other news, the Spanish gaming regulator published in the official gazette a new window for gaming operators to apply for licenses in the country.

Poker Industry Pro reported that Sacha Michaud, President of Jdigital, a Spanish online gambling industry association estimations that 10 new licenses will be granted in addition to the 52 that already exist and add an investment of an additional €20 million over the next 12 months.

Some of the bigger gaming operators in the industry are already offering regulated online poker in Spain including 888poker, iPoker, partypoker and PokerStars. However, some other gaming operators that are operating in France and Italy, most notably Winamax that do not currently have licenses and now have a window to obtain one.

The Stars Group owns a majority shareholding in iBus Media

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