If shared online poker liquidity sounded like a chimera or a concept too illusory to be deemed possible, it seems that it is now very close to turning into reality. News from Italian media from the past several weeks have spurred hopes that first shared liquidity agreements will be signed this year.
And according to the latest wave of media reports from the Southern European country, the first agreement that would allow ring-fenced online poker markets to merge their player pools would be penned by the end of this year’s first half. What is more, Italy’s online gambling head, Daria Petralia, has revealed that the first online poker network will probably be launched in late 2017 or early 2018.
Ms. Petralia has said that neither she, nor her colleagues could give a specific deadline as the agreement involves four countries, presumably France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal, and there are important technical matters to be taken care of before a network is created.
Shared online poker liquidity has circulated as an important topic in the European iGaming space for several years now. Yet, it was last summer when more important measures toward the idea’s realization were introduced. It can be said that France was the great initiator after adopting a law that allowed its national gambling regulator to negotiate shared liquidity agreements with counterparts from other interested countries.
Series of discussions have taken place with representatives of regulatory bodies from France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and even the UK, since last July for issues that may arise over the process of creating an online poker network. It is believed that taxation differences in the participating countries and technical details would be the hardest to overcome before the poker network is created. It is yet to be seen how regulators will cope with the issues.
The shared liquidity strategy is seen by many as what could save Europe’s online poker, particularly in ring-fenced markets. Italy, France, and Spain regulated their poker markets several years ago. However, they surrounded poker operations on their territories with an allegorical fence that killed competition and gave local players a very limited choice of options. The regulatory measures hit the game’s profitability significantly, as seen in quarterly and annual reports provided by the countries’ respective regulators.
Portugal opened its iGaming market for international operators last year. So far, PokerStars is the only poker brand operating in the country’s ring-fenced market. This leads us to believe that the operator will almost certainly participate in the shared liquidity network, once it is launched.
Ms. Petralia has also told media that major gambling operators are to enter the local market later this year. French poker operator Winamax has recently posted a message on its LinkedIn page, announcing that it was hiring Italian-, Spanish-, and Portuguese-speaking staff. In other words, the French brand may soon expand into more jurisdictions.