Poker players in Europe were promised a bigger pool to splash around in, and now they’ve got it. Portugal is the latest country to join PokerStars’ shared liquidity license, allowing them to play against opponents in France and Spain–and giving the company the biggest network in Europe.
France and Spain became the first countries to join poker forces in January. Portugal was supposed to join that player pool months ago, but a political gaffe delayed the process significantly . However, now that regulator Serviço de Regulação e Inspeção de Jogos do Turismo de Portugal (SRIJ) has its legal and technical ducks in a row, Portuguese poker players no longer have to sit on the rail as their neighbours have all the fun.
As of 10 am Wednesday morning, the pools were connected, after the SRIJ gave its final sign-off on the software.
However, there is a hitch — some games won’t be offered in Portugal, due to discrepancies about the rake.
Short on Cash Games
While tournament fields will be much bigger with a new market now in the fray, Portugal will be absent from any of the standard cash games. Zoom cash games? Sure. But regular ring games will not be on offer in Portugal for now, Director of Operations Severin Rasset explained on the PokerStars blog.
“The maximum rake that can be charged on ring games in Portugal is 5 percent. Currently, our rake is 5.25 percent in ZOOM cash games and 5.75 percent for regular ring games for France and Spain,” Rasset wrote. “In my previous post, I discussed some changes in pricing that had to occur in order to find a middle ground for the ring game rake in France and Spain.”
In other words, PokerStars isn’t offering regular cash games in Portugal because the country’s regulations won’t allow them to charge a 5.75 percent rake. To its credit, however, the company did agree to lower the rake on Zoom games from 5.25 percent to 5 percent in order to meet the country’s criteria and offer that game.
Company executives insist they’ll continue to work with regulators to find away to eventually offer all cash games in Portugal.
Waiting for “The Boot” to Drop
Italy was the fourth country to sign the shared liquidity alliance in April of 2016, but that country has yet to get poker up and running. Where exactly Italy is at in the regulatory process is a bit of a mystery, but all indications are that it is lagging far behind and won’t be joining the other three countries on the virtual felt anytime soon.
Early returns on the new shared liquidity picture in Europe have been encouraging. After France and Spain tore down the poker walls in January, gross gaming revenue was up eight percent in France over the first few months of 2018.
To celebrate Portugal’s arrival to Europe’s new online poker scene, PokerStars will host the Trio Series in June, a run of tournaments with €5 million (USD $ 5.83 million) in guaranteed prizes.