[toc]Spain’s online poker market could soon see a huge boost. And announced player pool mergers with other European countries could be the reason why.
Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego (DGOJ), Spain’s gambling regulator, revealed it will begin an application process for iGaming operators, allowing them to enter their regulated market.
At the moment, players in Spain can only play against other Spanish players on the Spanish version of poker sites, such as PokerStars.es.
This new shared online poker market would see Spain’s online poker player pools merge with the gambling regulators of ountries like:
These partnerships will ideally create bigger fields, more competition, and a healthy increase to Spain’s poker scene.
Why are shared online markets happening now?
The decision from the DGOJ comes after it added online slot games to the types of gambling activities permitted in the country. The success of those games seems to be an excellent ‘canary down the mine’ for online poker. It provided the DGOJ with the confidence to fulfil the potential of its local market.
The mergers and applications only begin officially following an announcement in the Spanish Official Gazette, which is yet to happen. However, the DGOJ already confirmed that any interested iGaming operators will have 12 months to submit their license applications.
The review process for each application will then take up to six months. These licenses are essential after a May 2011 rule under the Spanish Gambling Act. Operators must apply for specific licenses. In other words, one for each type of service it provides. For example, online poker and online slots require individual licenses.
From 2011 to 2015, following the regulation, the market didn’t grow as quickly as DGOJ expected. Cash game poker profits continually decreased. In fact, it wasn’t until the inclusion of online slot games in Spain that the market began to grow.
How will the player pool merger work?
On July 6, 2017 in Rome that the following countries signed a ‘shared liquidity agreement’:
These countries all have ring-fenced online poker markets, in which players can only play with other people in the country.
A joint statement read:
“This agreement will set the basis for cooperation between the signing Authorities in this context and will be followed by further necessary steps within each of the jurisdictions involved in order to effectively allow for liquidity poker tables.”
Quite simply, the shared liquidity agreement would allow players in these countries to play against each other. As it stands, there are only five licensed poker websites in Spain. Meanwhile PokerStars is the only online poker operator licensed in those countries.
But now thanks to the agreement, other operators are expanding into the new markets. For example, French site Winamax began hiring Spanish-, Italian-, and Portuguese-speaking staff earlier this year.
888 Holdings announced its intention to enter the Italian market. The Italian gambling regulators also revealed it is releasing a new license application process, with 120 expected licenses. This will no doubt have an enormous impact on Italy’s poker growth.
The UK intends to join the project, barring any complications from Brexit. Denmark, Germany, and Austria are also expected to participate.
The first player-pool sharing sites are expected to launch in the early months of 2018.
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