The world’s largest online poker site, PokerStars recently announced that players located outside of France and its overseas territories would no longer be able to access its ring-fenced.fr website.
So far PokerStars has been allowing players outside of France to access the site provided they have a European bank account and were not located in any of the countries restricted by the site.
In a statement, PokerStars said
In an effort to adapt to a constantly changing environment, from February 13, 2017 a reorganization will take place resulting in limiting service on PokerStars.FR to players resident in mainland France or its overseas territories
Players will still be able to withdraw funds and also make purchases with their StarCoins. The company announced that post Feb. 13, all tournament tickets or tournament money still left pending will be converted to real money for withdrawal. The new restriction on players from other jurisdictions is seen as a possible measure to protect the .fr player pool from sharks who prey on weaker players. Such players would now be diverted to the larger and more deep .com and .eu PokerStars sites.
Alternatively industry observers feel that it could be a preparatory move ahead of the liquidity sharing being proposed between European gaming markets like Italy, France, Spain and Portugal. France has been the most active of European countries to push forward on the proposal for liquidity sharing.
France’s gambling regulator – ARJEL has already received approval from the country’s legislative arm to start negotiations with other ring-fenced EU jurisdictions on liquidity sharing agreements. Gaming regulators from several countries namely Italy, France, the UK, Spain and Portugal met in November last year to discuss the technical standardization necessary to make the sharing possible.
Portugal submitted in January, a technical standards framework to the European Commission (EC). The submission will be reviewed by the EC over the next three months, until which no agreements can be signed. As EU members make changes to their laws and technical requirements in order to shift towards liquidity sharing, online poker operators across these countries are taking steps to deal with the impending new gaming environment.
There are indications that Winmax, France’s leading online gaming website is exploring the possibility of setting up operations in jurisdictions of Spain, Portugal and the UK. The company is in the process of hiring Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and English-speaking specialists.