French online gambling regulator ARJEL has stressed that this week’s MOU with its Spanish counterpart “cannot be regarded as a first step towards the opening of European liquidity”.
The comments made by ARJEL president Jean-Francois Villotte to iGaming France dampen speculation that the pooling of French poker liquidity with other segregated European player pools would naturally follow on from the cooperation and information sharing agreements signed with Spain’s DGOJ this week, the UK Gambling Commission in July and Italy’s AAMS in June 2012.
However, while Villotte said liquidity sharing between France and other European countries for online poker was not imminent, he said that the law could be changed “when cooperation and identical levels of regulation exist.”
Speculation that liquidity pooling was on the way had been heightened by discussions of this issue during a two-day meeting in June attended by ARJEL, AAMS, DGOJ and, rather incongruously, Portuguese gambling monopoly Santa Casa da Misericordia de Lisboa.
Italian regulator AAMS and Spain’s DGOJ, whose national player pools for online poker are completely ring-fenced, recently admitted to being in talks regarding the potential pooling of their liquidity from as early next year.
High taxes coupled with the ringfencing of liquidity – resulting in a more limited choice of games and smaller prize pools than those available on open dot.com sites – have hindered the growth of Europe’s dot.country poker markets.
Europe’s most mature dot.country market, Italy, which launched dot.it tournament poker in September 2008 followed by cash games in July 2011, has been in decline since January, with cash games revenue down 39% by the end of June.
France does however allow non-French residents to join dot.fr games if they wish, while Denmark, recognising that operators may not have applied for licences given the limited size of the country’s player pool, allowed licensed poker operators to tap into their respective international liquidities.
Article written by Stephen Carter