France okays online poker liquidity deals, Spanish legislators urged to follow suit

France’s beleaguered online poker market got a long-desired shot in the arm after politicians authorized liquidity sharing with other European Union regulated markets.


France’s ring-fenced poker market has been in terminal decline for years but politicians steadfastly refused to grant requests by French regulator ARJEL to allow its licensees to partner with operators in other regulated markets, with Italy and Spain being most commonly cited as keen and willing partners.

However, this week saw the country’s Senate have an Ebenezer Scrooge-like Christmas morning conversion, leading to their approval of an amendment to the Law for a Digital Republic that allows ARJEL to strike reciprocal poker liquidity deals with other EU member states and jurisdictions in the European Economic Area.

The amendment comes too late for many operators who shuttered their French-licensed sites based on their inability to post a profit in the heavily walled garden. Betclic Everest Group recently merged its two French poker sites into one, leaving the market with just nine operators, of which just three – Winamax, PokerStars and PartyPoker – are believed to hold a combined 90% market share.

It’s unclear when ARJEL might get around to inking its first liquidity sharing deal, but it can’t come quick enough for Sacha Michaud, president of Spanish online gambling trade group Jdigital. Like France, Spain’s ring-fenced market has not been kind to its poker licensees, with revenue falling yet again in 2015, representing a whopping 40% decline since the regulated market launched in 2012.

In a statement released last week, Michaud said the lack of international liquidity had turned Spanish online poker into “something much less fun and engaging” for both amateurs and pro players alike.

Spanish pro Leo Margets echoed Michaud’s concerns and claimed that the lack of international liquidity had led to a “brain drain” of around 200 Spanish pros who had relocated to other countries in order to access a more accommodating online environment.