Spain France to Share Player Pools “in the Coming Weeks”

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Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego (DGOJ), the Spanish online gambling regulator – has announced the issuing of cross-border online poker licenses “in the coming weeks”. This will make the first stage of liquidity-sharing project between Spain, France, Italy and Portugal feasible.

Online gambling regulators from Europe´s four ring-fenced countries concurred on a “basis of cooperation” in July last year with the target of generating a shared liquidity pool for online poker. Irrespective of the persistent failure of the Portuguese market and oppositions from Italian politicians the process of creating the pan-European market advanced.

France´s online gambling regulator – Autorité de Régulation des Jeux En Ligne (ARJEL) – issued to; its first cross-border online poker license last month and earlier this week its Spanish counterpart added in the Official State Gazette about the issuing of cross-border online poker licenses as promptly as the law authorises it to do it. Issuing of the licenses will enable operators with cross-border online poker licenses to amalgamate their player pools from Spain and France.

No such time period has been put forward for the joining of operators in Portugal with the pan-European market until the country´s elections take place in March nothing is anticipated to materialise in Italy.

PokerStars and Party to be First in the Queue

PokerStars and Party Poker are expected to be the first recipients of Spanish cross-border online poker licenses. Both have a presence in Spain and France, and although Party Poker´s Spanish presence is minuscule ( has not hosted a multi-table tournament since May 2015), the site hopes liquidity sharing will signal a reversal in its fortunes.

The French online poker site Winamax was also expected to apply for cross-border licenses in Spain and France, but the site might be having second thoughts. Despite declaring its support for a pan-European market – and signing Spain´s Adrian Mateos and Italy´s Mustapha Kanit as sponsored pros last October – Winamax has not been quick to apply for either French or Spanish cross-border poker licenses.

One of the issues obstructing Winamax from obtaining a Spanish cross-border poker license is that it allows players from outside France to play on its poker platform. This is contrary to Spanish licensing regulations; and, as Winamax does not have a presence in Spain, the site may be considering whether it is worth abandoning its non-French customers in order to obtain a license in Spain.

888Poker Also Appears Reluctant to Get Involved

With Winamax and PokerStars sharing 80% of the French online poker market, 888Poker doesn´t appear to be in much of a hurry to join pan-European liquidity sharing either. 888Poker does have a healthy market share in Spain, but rather than try to make a profitable incursion into France, the site has decided to turn its attention to the much more open Italian market.

On Tuesday, the company launched to complement its existing Italian-facing sports betting site and online casino. The launch is being supported by a substantial marketing campaign and it will be interesting to see where lands among its competition once the dust has settled. The result could determine whether the company eventually moves into the French online poker market and seriously gets involved in pan-European liquidity sharing.

Consequently, it looks as though the launch of a pan-European market could be a bit of an anti-climax. The only two operators likely to take advantage of the initial liquidity sharing possibilities will be PokerStars and Party Poker – the latter being a very minor player in European regulated markets – while Winamax and 888Poker may just sit on the fence. Not quite the “great news for poker in Europe” forecast by some industry observers.