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Czech Republic Made It Tough, But BetStars Finally Joins The Market

BetStars is now the first licensed operator of betting services to launch in the newly-regulated Czech Republic market.

The operator, a sister brand of online poker giant PokerStars, has now followed in PokerStars’ footsteps. The poker room became the first operator to be granted a license to target Czech poker players back in February 2017. Now BetStars is the first internationally-licensed provider of iGaming services.

The country’s Finance Ministry released a list of licensed providers on its website, as reported by local poker news outlet Poker Arena.

What’s going on with the Czech gambling market?

It took years of debate before Czech lawmakers agreed on new gambling laws allowing international operators. The laws went into effect on Jan. 1st, 2017.

Prior to that, several attempts to pass these laws failed. This may have been because few international operators actually expressed an interest in entering a new market.

The former market operated in a grey area. Therefore, it was very popular with the major gambling operators, including William Hill and GVC Holding’s partypoker.

But when the new regulations came out, they came with several unappealing factors for operators.

The Czech government hoped the regulated market would be highly lucrative. However, the high tax rates and extensive administrative procedures became off-putting, driving a lot of the major players away.

For example, partypoker promised it would re-enter the market after initially retreating in December 2016. A statement from a Czech partypoker representative at the time said:

“We look forward to [welcoming] you back at partypoker, as soon as we will be granted a licence.”

But then in June 2017, the company withdrew its new application. It cited the regulatory environment in the Czech Republic as the reason.

The Czech Republic’s new laws require the licensed gambling companies to fork over a 35 percent tax on annual revenue from local operations. Everyone from operators, players, even EU authorities criticised this rate.

PokerStars’ entrance into the market, after receiving its approval to operate in the Czech Republic in October 2017, may bring changes that see those other big players reconsider.

What is BetStars?

BetStars launched in 2015. It was part of an overall strategy from Canadian gambling firm Amaya Inc, which is now called The Stars Group, to include other gambling services aside from poker on PokerStars.

As well as the introduction of sports betting, The Stars Group also introduced casino games linked to PokerStars. Now players could use their online poker deposits to also play blackjack, roulette, and slot-machine style games.

Poker remains The Stars Group’s most profitable offering. However, online betting and casino games also proved lucrative in the two years since they were introduced.

Jack Stanton
- Jack Stanton is a freelance journalist and marketing copywriter, specialising in the world of poker and online gaming. Jack's work has appeared on VICE, The Guardian, The Drum, PokerStars Blog, PocketFives, BLUFF Europe and more. As a live poker reporter, Jack has covered events in locations as far afield as the Bahamas, Chile, South Korea, Brazil, and all across Europe.