The regulated online poker industry in Europe has experienced sluggish growth rates during the last couple of years. Online poker markets in France, Spain and Italy have declined significantly in the last 18 months to due to stringent online gambling regulations and the growth of illegal gambling websites. This hasn’t deterred Portugal from moving ahead with the legalization of the online poker market in the country.
Portugal announced towards the end of 2015 that it would regulate the online poker industry during the early part of 2016 and confirmed that the regulations would ensure that Portugal is not open to international liquidity and players will be restricted to only dot-pt rooms.
Manuela Bandeira, the SRIJ Director and Head of Online Gambling has confirmed that the Portuguese online poker market will be segregated and will be based on a similar regulation that France has adopted.
This would require online poker players in Portugal to only play at dot-pt poker rooms in order to ensure that every player spend is within the regulated industry. However, online poker players from otnher countries will be permitted to access dot-pt poker rooms and compete with players from Portugal.
In a statement, Bandeira said
International liquidity is important for poker, as it allows small markets to be more competitive. It’s not a simple issue and we need to work more closely with other regulatory bodies from different countries in order to understand how to make it work.
Portugal’s online poker players were initially happy to find out that online poker was going to be legalized but these new regulations and restrictions have not gone down well with the players. The Portuguese Player Association Associação Nacional de Apostadores Online (ANAon) has thrown its support behind its players and opposed these new restrictions. ANAon has called upon gaming regulators to do away with these new restrictions and allow international liquidity in Portugal to ensure that the industry is competitive and has the best interests of its players in mind.
ANAon has also stated that if gaming regulators are not willing to revoke these new restrictions then it would be forced to organize a boycott and ask its players to not visit any licensed online poker rooms.
SRIJ has not rolled out any licenses for online poker operators as it is yet to receive approval from the EU Commission based on its proposal of online gambling regulations. Should gaming regulators decide to stick to their new regulations, illegal poker websites in the country will be the biggest beneficiaries.