Plans for European Union regulated gambling markets to share online poker liquidity are under fire from a key Italian politician, potentially threatening to undo years of negotiations by regulators in their respective markets.
On July 6, gaming regulators in France, Italy, Portugal and Spain finally reached consensus on plans to allow the four countries’ licensed online poker operators to accept customers from each other’s markets. While the plan is a long way from becoming reality, some regulators have already begun accepting applicants from online poker sites who believe sharing is caring.
But these plans came under fire last week from Italian Democratic Party Senator Franco Mirabelli (pictured), who sits on the country’s influential anti-mafia commission. Gioco News quoted Mirabelli saying he planned to present a query seeking “an immediate intervention” by Minister of Economy and Finance Pier Carlo Padoan “to prevent the continuation of this project.”
Mirabelli is apparently convinced that allowing Italian-licensed online poker operators to share liquidity with their counterparts in three other EU markets could become “a tool for recycling,” which is apparently the way Italians refer to international money laundering.
Mirabelli also framed his argument in terms of player protection, suggesting liquidity sharing would mean “players will be exposed to greater risks in an unmanaged system,” although Mirabelli didn’t offer specifics on what extra risks players might face. But Mirabelli claimed parliament “does not feel any need for a further extension of the gaming offer via the internet.”
Mirabelli’s words were soon echoed by Giorgio Pastorino, chairman of the Totoricevitori Sport Union (STS), which operates sports-themed lottery and betting products. Agimeg.it quoted Pastorino saying the government should “step back on international liquidity” because of the “high risk of recycling.” Pastorino said STS would take “all the possible steps for putting a brake on this uncontrolled freedom” in the online realm.
The STS is affiliated with the Italian Tabaccai Federation (FIT), and FIT chairman Giovanni Risso is also no fan of international liquidity, calling it “a risky expansion” for Italy and “a risk we cannot afford.”
It remains to be seen how sustained an attack these liquidity opponents intend to mount, but this late challenge will definitely not cheer online poker players in these four EU member states, who have been suffering behind their walled gardens for years waiting for someone else to play with.