PokerStars the world’s largest online poker site has announced that it might be soon entering Portugal’s online gaming market. Canadian based Amaya Inc is the parent company of PokerStars.
Amaya’s CEO Rafi Ashkenazi made the announcement during an analysts’ conference call which was scheduled to discuss the company’s third quarter results.
Ashkenazi stated that the company was waiting for the final regulatory approval to launch in online poker operations in Portugal.
In a statement, Ashkenazi said
We are going to roll out in Portugal on a closed liquidity basis initially before it will be opened up either to a dot-com liquidity, which we hope … [or] liquidity together with France and Italy, but this will take probably some time.
If the approval comes through, it would make PokerStars the first licensed online poker operator in the country after pulling out in July 2015 and Portuguese players will be able to play legal online poker for the first time in two years.
Portugal had made a move in April 2015 to put an end to the monopoly that the state had over the gaming market and invited international operators to apply for licenses. So far the regulator the Servico de Regulacao e Inspecao de Jogos (SRIJ) has issued two licenses for casino gaming and two for sports betting.
Online gaming in the country has been facing declining revenues largely due to its restrictive regulations. Portugal has ring-fenced its online gaming industry allowing no liquidity sharing which has not helped the market. The country also levies high tax rates on gross gaming revenues which can be as high as 30 percent and has negatively impacted the industry.
The ring fenced nature of the industry means that PokerStars players will be playing on a segregated website like in case of New Jersey, France, Spain and Italy and will not be able to play on the .com platform. However in recent months, poor revenue trends in online gaming industry has forced several European countries to explore the implementation of player liquidity sharing in order to give a boost to online gaming. The SRIJ has also announced earlier this year that it would be examining the possibility of sharing liquidity and allowing access to the .com pool.
The other companies who have received license in Portugal are Betclic which has two licenses, one for sports betting and the other for casino games. The other recipients are Bet for sportbetting and Estoril Sol Digital, Online Gaming Products and Services, S.A. which has one for casino gaming.