Italy’s Online Poker Market Sinks Further Into The MireFebruary 27, 2014 1:45 pm
Back in 2011, online operators holding an Italian license were granted the right to offer poker and casino games over the internet, with online slots added to the mix the following year. In 2012, Italy’s online gambling market subsequently generated €749 million in gross gaming revenues, with the the country’s 2013 revenue results expected to be significantly higher.
Online poker, however, seems to be sinking further and further into the mire with January’s monthly cash games figure 20% down on the same month in 2013, and a massive 50% lower than in January, 2012. Tournament poker revenues, likewise, reported a similar fall of 26% compared with January, last year.
Unfortunately, Italy’s latest online poker results highlight the difficulties segregated national markets experience when trying to develop a competitive poker ecology, without sufficient volumes of player to make the industry viable or attractive to players. It is also a familiar one that can be found in Europe’s other main regulated markets of Spain and France, which reported a 17% decline in online poker revenue for the third quarter of 2013.
Despite the need for urgent reforms, the situation isn’t likely to change anytime soon, either, as Spain’s opposition party PSOE has vowed to clamp down hard on online gambling if they are voted into power, while France appears to have flatly rejected the possibility of sharing players with other countries, even though a recent study by the French Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (OFDT) has discovered a quarter of French online poker players actually play on unlicensed websites. As Razzy Hammadi from the government’s Committee for Economic Affairs, stated recently:
“There are two ways to understand the tightening of the market. We could simply realize that despite significant investments in advertising and development, poker has now gone a little out of fashion, or we could at the same time consider that the need of an everyday greater liquidity is part of online poker’s economic structure. As a rapporteur, I am against that as it brings to my mind the idea of online poker becoming an uncontrollable ogre eating one market after the other.”
Meanwhile, PokerStars continues to dominate the online poker market’s it has entered and in Italy the poker room accounts for more than 50% of total revenues, while in Spain that figure rises to 72% of all cash game traffic.