Segregated Online Poker Market to Fail, Regulators Aim for Common Market

Poker Legislation | estimated reading time
2013. January 19. |
French online poker regulator ARJEL has announced that state revenues from online poker fall short of expectations and major changes are necessary.
In July 2012, the largest European regulators: Italian AAMS,  French ARJEL, Spanish DGOJ and Portuguese SCML met in a conference in Barcelona, Spain. The aim of the meeting was to promote cooperation and change of information among the regulated markets in order to protect players from cheaters and other scams, as well as to discuss details of their campaigns against problem gambling. The idea of a common, regulated market also came up and all the regulators agreed that it is the long term interest of operators and players alike.

France - Spain - Italy

The parties negotiated the situation again last December but no significant progress was made. This could all change now.

In the latest news, the state revenues from poker fell significantly short of expectations in France for 2012, which concerns ARJEL. According to the published data, cash game traffic dropped 5% last year, and while tournament traffic increased by 21%, tourneys make up only 20% of the total traffic, which means the increase did not have a major effect on the total revenues.

ARJEL President Jean-Francois Vilotte admitted that the numbers are a great disappointment for them and indicated that a common regulated market is necessary with the participation of the regulators whose regulations are compatible with French law. He also promoted modification and fine tuning of the French regulations, which he saw crucial in order to be able to progress.

“Attractiveness of poker… is a matter of concern,” Vilotte said.

Jean-Francois Vilotte
Jean-Francois Vilotte, ARJEL

The French are therefore likely to try to move further the negotiations started with the Italian, Spanish and Portuguese regulators, while it is still more probable that an Italian-Spanish common market will be first realised. This is due to the fact that the tax in the French system is significantly higher: they take a 2% duty on each cash game pot, raked or not, which means a 40% tax on gross gambling income. In Italy and Spain, in contrast, the figures are in the 20%-25% range.

Enrique Alejo, representing the Spanish Gambling Committee (DGOJ) had earlier stated on the possibility of the realisation of a common market that “I do not know if early in 2013, but maybe at some point yes.” On the flow of Spanish players to abroad and the cooperation, he had added: “There’s no doubt it’s a loss for the market. We wish they were here and played in Spain because they are Spanish and would add value for Spain as well as retaining Spanish talent... The French are positive but have shown less willingness to act in the timeframe.” He had also expected that the French would be more enthusiastic once the Spanish-Italian market was opened.

Segregating the player pool of online poker into country-specific pools is clearly failing. The most important question at the moment appears to be if the first regulated market that incorporates several countries is coming to life anytime soon.

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