Online Poker Borders Coming Down in Europe?

Online poker players in France, Italy, Spain and Portugal may soon have more opponents to play against. France’s online gaming regulator ARJEL announced earlier this week that the four countries are scheduled to sign a player liquidity sharing agreement when they meet in Rome on Thursday.

All four countries have offered legal and regulated online poker for years, but it was limited within their borders. If you were playing online poker in France you could legally only play against other players in France. This is also the case in Italy, Spain and Portugal.

The signing of this new agreement is the first step toward breaking down these borders and allowing players from all four countries to play against each other.

Until earlier this year such an agreement would have been illegal in France. An amendment passed by the French Senate rewrote the law and made cross-border deals legal.

Talks of similar deals have been bounced around for years, but never gained any traction until recently. In fact, French President Emmanuel Macron initially rejected a proposal to share players across borders in 2015 when he was the French Minister for the Economy.

Two things may have changed Macron and his counterparts’ minds. Online poker revenues in France, Italy, Spain and Portugal have become stagnant, or in some cases have declined in recent years. The lifeblood of online poker is access to players, which has been severely limited by the closed border rules.

UK Success and Future Hope for USA Partnerships?

Also leading to the change was the success of an open international online poker market in the United Kingdom. The UK has kept its online poker borders open, allowing UK online poker players to sit down at the tables with players around the world from countries that also regulate online poker. This increased access to more players has helped revenues and profits from online poker in Britain to increase in the last two years.

The change in direction in Europe has the online poker industry in the United States hoping for similar action. The adoption of legal and regulated poker in America has been a slow process with only three states, New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware, getting on board so far. Like Europe these states are limited to offering online poker within their borders.

However, the states do have provisions in their online gambling bills to allow future partnerships with other states. These provisions, and the hope that online poker will soon come to more states such as New York, California and Pennsylvania, could be the driving force for future player liquidity sharing agreements in the United States.