Portugal Merges iPoker Player Pool With France and Spain

Portuguese iGambling Market Shrinks to Just €11.4M in Q2

Three months ago, Portugal’s gambling regulatory body (SRIJ) produced the framework necessary for its poker players to compete across a shared network with its European neighbors France, Spain, and Italy. On Wednesday, May 23rd, Portugal subsequently became the third country to officially join the liquidity pact, with PokerStars providing the means by which players from these previously ring-fenced markets can now compete against one another.

In January, PokerStars was also the first operator to offer shared liquidity to French and Spanish players, and in a press release this week The Stars Group’s CEO Guy Templer praised his company for once again leading the way in expanding the shared European liquidity network. Celebrating the exciting development, Templer stated that he was now looking forward to collaborating with the Portuguese regulator SRIJ in order to improve the poker product being offered to Portuguese players, stating:

“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!”

Shared Cash Games Later

French, Spanish and Portuguese players can now compete in poker tournaments against each other across national borders, although the situation is more complicated when it comes to cash games. ZOOM and other fast-paced cash games, for instance, are available for all players to enjoy, while standard cash games are to be merged sometime down the line.

The delay appears to be related to the different rake PokerStars is allowed to charge players in the various countries, and commenting upon the issue, Severin Rasset, the Director of Poker Innovation at PokerStars, said:

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“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.”

Trio Series

Similar to the €5 million guaranteed France Espana Hold’em Series (FRESH) that heralded the union of French and Spanish players at the start of the year, PokerStars has announced a Trio Series to welcome Portuguese players to the party. From June 3-13, the operator will once again be offering a guaranteed €5 million prize pool, with the 78-event Trio Series also featuring a €250 Main Event complete with a €500,000 guarantee.

In addition to a plethora of freerolls, players are also able to enter the Trio Series from as little as €1. Meanwhile, PokerStars players across the shared network can also look forward to a revamped daily and Sunday tournament schedule that reflects the improved status of the shared player pools.

Italy Next

Finally, Templer expressed his hope that Italy would soon be able to join the shared online poker network, and benefit from the “significantly better experience that shared liquidity brings.” In the meantime, however, Italy has been making slow progress on the issue as the country seeks to allay the worries of politicians who have expressed concern that the network may be used for money laundering and other criminal activities.

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Nevertheless, there are promising signs that many of these earlier objections are now being overcome, and that effective safeguards are being formulated in order to ensure that the network will not be used for the illicit flows of money across national borders. In February, the Italian government was also reported to have completed the required technical checks necessary to eventually merge its player pool with those of France, Spain, and Portugal.