Powerful political opposition in Italy could upset the applecart for the shared online poker liquidity project the country’s gambling regulators have been working on with their counterparts from France, Spain, and Portugal for over a year now.
The scheme would allow online poker players from one participating country to play against peers from the other three jurisdictions and aims to revitalize the ailing poker markets of all four countries.
Recent media reports from Italy have suggested that responsible gambling campaigners and politicians are concerned about the project’s impact on gambling customers and that the launch of the online poker network could facilitate the illicit flow of money and related criminal activities.
Latest Anti-Shared Liquidity Comments
The fact that the shared liquidity project has drawn opposition should not come as a big surprise, particularly given its scale. However, the wave of discontent has grown significantly over the past several weeks and at a time when the participating countries are gearing up for the scheme’s eventual materialization.
Last week, Italian Deputy Paola Binetti told local gambling news outlet AGIMEG that while making it easier for players from four different countries to battle against one another, the shared online poker liquidity project could also incentivize illegal activities and growth in gambling addiction rates among vulnerable players.
According to Ms. Binetti, there is a very thin line between what is legal and what is illicit in the growing digitalization of the nation’s gambling industry and that the shared liquidity project in its current form does not present very clear-cut boundaries between legal, and illegal and multiple issues could arise from this in future.
Problem gambling and legality concerns were also voiced by Senator Franco Mirabelli, who is known to be leader of Italy’s Anti-Mafia Commission. According to Mr. Mirabelli, the launch of an online poker network in partnership with other countries at a time when Italy is trying to limit the proliferation of gambling was rather unreasonable.
The Senator also pointed out that the realization of the shared liquidity project will increase risks for players as it would be more difficult for their activities to be monitored properly. Mr. Mirabelli further pointed out that Italy does not need any expansion of its gambling market and that lawmakers should work in the opposite direction instead.
The Senator’s comments are coming at a time when the local gambling regulator is preparing to launch a call for tender that would allow interested online gambling operators to apply for a license. There will be 120 such licenses available. Around 80 licensees are currently providing iGaming services to Italian players, which means that the market will be expanded significantly once the new batch of licenses is issued.
Sen. Mirabelli is planning to request intervention from Italy’s Minister of Finance, Pier Carlo Padoan, and to ask him to prevent the project from being completed.
The gambling regulators of Italy, France, Spain, and Portugal finalized the year-long shared liquidity negotiations in July at a special meeting held in Rome. The participating countries now expect to realize the project by the end of the year or in the first quarter of 2018.