Published: March 11, 2018

Italy Should Stick to Its Poker Liquidity Commitment, Pier Paolo Baretta Says

Italy should apply the terms of the shared online poker liquidity agreement it signed with France, Spain, and Portugal last summer in Rome, Pier Paolo Baretta, the outgoing Undersecretary of State at the Italian Finance Ministry, said earlier this week in an interview with local news outlet GiocoNews.

Mr. Baretta, whose responsibilities include gambling regulation, has been a long-time supporter of the shared liquidity project as a means for Europe’s segregated poker markets to be revived.

The politician further dwelt on by saying that not implementing the shared liquidity project could be considered a diplomatic gaffe of some form and would demonstrate lack of respect toward the partners of Italy’s Agenzia delle dogane e dei Monopoli (the local gambling regulator) from France (ARJEL), Spain (DGOJ), and Portugal (SRIJ).

First shared poker tables went live in Spain and France in mid-January. PokerStars was the first operator to receive the necessary authorization to participate in the shared liquidity project. French online poker operator Winamax has also obtained a license from ARJEL to roll out shared poker tables. It now needs the green light from Spanish regulators in order to be able to operate in the country.

Mr. Baretta told local media that the necessary technical checks that would make it possible for Italy to join the project were completed successfully. In other words, the country’s gambling regulator now only needs to publish the technical standards framework for the implementation of shared liquidity within its borders so that licensed operators are able to merge their player pools in the participating countries.

The recently held general election delayed the start of the shared liquidity scheme in Italy and, as Mr. Baretta pointed out, it is yet to be seen whether the project will be launched by the outgoing government or by the new one. And it seems that there is still a chance of Italy deciding against its participation, although it had been active in the shared liquidity negotations. While shared liquidity has gained quite some political support in the country, it has also been opposed by a number of influential politicians who have expressed concerns that the project could create conditions for money laundering and other related crimes.

Progress in Portugal

It all shows that Portugal will be the third country to open its online poker market for shared liquidity. The country’s gambling regulator approved a technical standards framework in January and it was then published in the Official Journal.

Portuguese poker news outlets have reported that local players will probably have to wait until mid-March or even the end of the month before being able to play against peers from France and Spain. Here it is important to note that the aforementioned two countries were able to merge their player pools quite quickly without any delays.

It was understood that software certifications needed for the implementation of the project are yet to be secured, hence the delayed start. PokerStars is currently the only licensed poker operator in Portugal. The poker room had to implement the Seat Me feature on its .pt website before being able to merge its Portuguese player pool with those of France and Spain. It was reported that the feature would be added by March 6, which hopefully means that the player pooling could begin as soon as the above-mentioned certifications are obtained.

© Public Gaming Research Institute. All rights reserved.