Online poker liquidity sharing between European Union regulated gambling markets will be given official regulatory blessing next month.
On Friday, the gaming regulatory bodies in France, Italy, Portugal and Spain issued identical statements indicating that their long-awaited deal to share online poker liquidity among licensed operators in their respective markets will be signed in Rome on July 6.
The signing won’t immediately open the floodgates for poker players in each of those markets to square off against each other across a digital table. The statement indicates that the agreement will only “lay the foundations for cooperation” between the four nations. Regulators in each jurisdiction will then need to individually take the necessary steps “to make liquidity possible for the game of poker.”
These steps will include the thorny question of resolving the disparity in taxation of poker play in each of the jurisdictions, as well as issues involving responsibility for taking regulatory action in the event of some shenanigans involving players or operators in multiple markets.
The timeline for signing the deal is a little later than the head of French gambling regulator ARJEL predicted last month but, given the years it has taken to reach this stage, one extra week seems like a forgivable rounding error.
But the deal also can’t come soon enough, given the moribund state of the online poker business in each of the four nations’ regulated markets. While tournament poker revenue has suffered less, poker cash games have been plummeting across the board for years now, reflecting global trends.
The deal notably omits poker operators in the United Kingdom, despite the UK Gambling Commission having participated in the lengthy discussions that preceded Friday’s announcement. The UK’s recent ‘Brexit’ vote to disengage from the European Union likely spells doom for any UK involvement in any EU shared liquidity arrangement, at least in the short term.