Portugal Opts For Segregated iPoker MarketDecember 7, 2015 5:42 pm
International iPoker operators and Portuguese players alike were dismayed last week to discover that the small country of just 10.4 million people had decided to ring-fenced its online poker market. The announcement made during a gaming industry conference in Lisbon was all the more surprising as there had been no previous indications to suggest that Portugal would be following in the tried and failed footsteps of its nearest neighbors, Spain, France and Italy.
In fact, Portuguese legislators had earlier said that they would be using the lessons learned from these other European markets before framing its own approach to the issue. It therefore seems inconceivable that Portugal has now opted to segregate its poker players from other jurisdictions, instead of following a more progressive and inclusive model like the one adopted by the U.K.
The latest piece of bad news comes a few months after Portugal’s gambling regulator, SRIJ, announced that it would impose a harsh 15% and 30% tax regime on online gambling operators, subject to their yearly incomes. That announcement alone was enough to prompt a number of high profile gambling companies to state that they would no longer be seeking to enter Portugal’s regulated market, including such major operators as PokerStars, Full Tilt, Ladbrokes, and William Hill.
On the face of it, Portugal’s decision seems ludicrous considering that poker needs a critical mass of liquidity in order to provide an attractive and viable environment for operators and players alike. Nevertheless, the decision make more sense when one considers that theses days iPoker plays an increasingly marginal role in determining a country’s approach to its online gambling industry. More lucrative are the online casino and sports betting verticals, which do not have the same liquidity issues as online poker, and therefore can benefit more from adopting a segregated one nation model, and the simplified, regulatory regime that it entails.