Portuguese Regulator Gives Green Light for Shared Liquidity

PortugalLast Thursday, the Portuguese regulatory authority for online gambling – the Serviço Regulação e Inspeção de Jogos – finally approved the regulations Portuguese-licensed operators will have to comply with in order to join the French/Spanish shared liquidity online poker market.  

Two weeks after the launch of the French/Spanish online poker market – and several months after anything was last heard from them – the Serviço Regulação e Inspeção de Jogos (SRIJ) finally approved the regulations for cross-border liquidity sharing that will enable online poker players in Portugal to play against their French and Spanish counterparts.

The regulations came into effect on Friday, but – unlike two weeks ago, when PokerStars´ French and Spanish player pools were combined almost immediately – online poker players in Portugal may have to wait a while longer. PokerStars recently said it was hopeful of adding its Portuguese player pool to the shared liquidity market in Q2, and there has not been any sign yet of a change of plan.

New Regulations Closely Mirror Spanish Laws

As well as addressing the technical specifications that will need to be implemented before Portuguese-licensed operators can start cross-border activities, the new regulations include three changes that bring the regulations closer in line to those issued by the Spanish online gaming regulator – the Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego (DGOJ).

The first of these concerns the ridiculous “no networks rule” that prevented many online poker operators entering the regulated Portuguese market and allowed PokerStars to create a monopoly. The rule had been widely criticized by players´ organisation, and – despite the small market size – was considered a primary factor for the failure of the regulated market.

A second significant regulation is one that allows Portuguese-licensed operators to share liquidity with platforms in other jurisdictions that the SRIJ considers to be in compliance with its technical specifications. The jurisdictions do not have to specifically be part of the France/Spain/Italy/Portugal shared-liquidity agreement, and exactly how that may work in respect of online poker is a bit of a guess.

However, where the “anybody can join” regulation may prove to be useful is in the third significant regulation – one which allows sports betting between players. This regulation is not intended to promote P2P betting, but could open the door for cross-border betting exchanges. The extra liquidity would undoubtedly help the struggling ring-fenced betting exchanges in Spain and Italy.

No Timeline Yet for Italian Inclusion in Shared Market

It is not known yet when the Italians might publish their regulations for licensed operators to join the shared liquidity market. Back in October last year, there was a fair amount of anti-liquidity sentiment being expressed due to the potential for gambling addiction and money laundering. There were also concerns that PokerStars´ dominance would force several domestic operators out of business.

However, reports coming out of Italy suggest the country is still intending to join the shared liquidity market. Online gaming website GiocoNews recently quoted Italy´s Undersecretary at the Ministry of Economy and Finance – Pier Paolo Baretta – as saying “the agreement will be respected”. Mr Baretta told the website the “technical verification of the liquidity sharing mechanism” was still being investigated.

It is also not known what format the shared liquidity market will finally take. Whereas it was originally intended to be a ring-fenced market for residents of the four regulated countries, Winamax and PokerStars both appear to be allowing players to register accounts from outside the quartet of regulated markets. Whether this practise will be stopped once Portugal and Italy become full members of the shared liquidity market, we shall have to wait and see.