Portugal Begins Sharing Online Poker Liquidity with Spain, France
In February, Portugal’s gambling regulatory body, Serviço de Regulação e Inspeção de Jogos (SRIJ), published the technical standards framework for online poker liquidity sharing with European neighbors Spain, France, and Italy. My colleague – and someone who should’ve been elected to the Women in Poker Hall of Fame, dammit – said player pooling was “imminent.” Now, maybe having it happen more than three months later doesn’t exactly qualify as “imminent,” but it did happen today, so that’s close enough for me (and hey, in grand scheme of the universe, three months is pretty darn imminent).
As expected, PokerStars is the first online poker room on which players from Portugal can play with players from Spain and France. The latter two countries began sharing liquidity (on PokerStars, naturally) in January.
In a press release, The Stars Group’s Chief Operating Office Guy Templer celebrated the milestone:
We have worked hard to become the first operator to bring the benefits of shared liquidity to Portugal. Our players will see a huge increase in the variety and scale of our tournaments and promotions and will enjoy more excitement, more competition and more fun! This dramatically strengthens our offering and demonstrates our commitment to the Portuguese market. We look forward to working with the Portuguese regulator to further improve the poker product offering for Portuguese players, and additionally hope that Italy will soon progress so that their players can also enjoy the significantly better experience that shared liquidity brings.
This is another step in remedying the stupidity of national ring-fencing. For whatever reason – probably the fear of technology – Spain, France, Portugal, and Italy decided to only allow people in their countries to play online poker against other people from within their national borders. As readers of this site likely know, limiting poker player pools is a bad idea, as poker rooms need steady traffic to survive. Now, poker industries did survive in those countries, but they didn’t thrive.
Finally, the four countries agreed last summer to merge their player pools. As mentioned, Spain and France joined forces in January. Italy is still lagging way behind with no real indication as to when it will start its liquidity sharing.
Interestingly, when Spain and France launched its shared player pool, PokerStars permitted people not in the two countries to play on the shared traffic site, provided their country didn’t have its own national online poker regulations.
It appears, though, that Portugal’s inclusion in the shared liquidity comes was a catch, at least for now. According to Severin Rasset on the PokerStars Blog, Portugal’s regular cash games will not be merged with Spain’s and France’s right away. ZOOM cash games and all other games, including tournaments, will be shared.
It seems that this has to do with the rake PokerStars charges and is allowed to charge players in the different countries. Explained Rasset:
We’re going to keep reviewing what we can offer our players, behind the scenes too. We work closely with regulators to get the best outcome between regulations and our offering. With the introduction of Portugal, we had to take into consideration one regulation which has an impact on our offering in Spain and France, albeit quite a positive one. The maximum rake that can be charged on ring games in Portugal is 5%. Currently, our rake is 5.25% in ZOOM cash games and 5.75% for regular ring games for France and Spain. In my previous post, I discussed some changes in pricing that had to occur in order to find a middle ground for the ring game rake in France and Spain. This meant decreasing it for France, increasing it for Spain, and decreasing for both in ZOOM cash games. We also pay gaming duty for France based on bets, not on rake meaning we have to pay the tax pre-flop even though we don’t charge a commission (rake) at that point.
PokerStars decided to lower the ZOOM cash game rake to 5 percent across the board. The company will “continue to work with regulators on offering shared liquidity in regular ring games.”
PokerStars did not make mention of it in its announcement, but one would assume that it will use the Seat Me system for cash games once Portuguese players can play in them. Spain and France are already using the automating seating system that helps limit bumhunting and the use of seating scripts.
To celebrate the inclusion of Portugal, PokerStars will host the Trio Series from June 3rd through June 13th. The Trio Series will feature 78 events with a €500,000 guarantee for the €250 Main Event. Buy-ins for the events will start as low as €1.