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Compliance Updates

Spain France to Share Player Pools “in the Coming Weeks”

Niji Narayan

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Dirección General de Ordenación del Juego (DGOJ), the Spanish online gambling regulator – has announced the issuing of cross-border online poker licenses “in the coming weeks”. This will make the first stage of liquidity-sharing project between Spain, France, Italy and Portugal feasible.

Online gambling regulators from Europe´s four ring-fenced countries concurred on a “basis of cooperation” in July last year with the target of generating a shared liquidity pool for online poker. Irrespective of the persistent failure of the Portuguese market and oppositions from Italian politicians the process of creating the pan-European market advanced.

France´s online gambling regulator – Autorité de Régulation des Jeux En Ligne (ARJEL) – issued to PokerStars.fr; its first cross-border online poker license last month and earlier this week its Spanish counterpart added in the Official State Gazette about the issuing of cross-border online poker licenses as promptly as the law authorises it to do it. Issuing of the licenses will enable operators with cross-border online poker licenses to amalgamate their player pools from Spain and France.

No such time period has been put forward for the joining of operators in Portugal with the pan-European market until the country´s elections take place in March nothing is anticipated to materialise in Italy.

PokerStars and Party to be First in the Queue

PokerStars and Party Poker are expected to be the first recipients of Spanish cross-border online poker licenses. Both have a presence in Spain and France, and although Party Poker´s Spanish presence is minuscule (partypoker.es has not hosted a multi-table tournament since May 2015), the site hopes liquidity sharing will signal a reversal in its fortunes.

The French online poker site Winamax was also expected to apply for cross-border licenses in Spain and France, but the site might be having second thoughts. Despite declaring its support for a pan-European market – and signing Spain´s Adrian Mateos and Italy´s Mustapha Kanit as sponsored pros last October – Winamax has not been quick to apply for either French or Spanish cross-border poker licenses.

One of the issues obstructing Winamax from obtaining a Spanish cross-border poker license is that it allows players from outside France to play on its poker platform. This is contrary to Spanish licensing regulations; and, as Winamax does not have a presence in Spain, the site may be considering whether it is worth abandoning its non-French customers in order to obtain a license in Spain.

888Poker Also Appears Reluctant to Get Involved

With Winamax and PokerStars sharing 80% of the French online poker market, 888Poker doesn´t appear to be in much of a hurry to join pan-European liquidity sharing either. 888Poker does have a healthy market share in Spain, but rather than try to make a profitable incursion into France, the site has decided to turn its attention to the much more open Italian market.

On Tuesday, the company launched 888Poker.it to complement its existing Italian-facing sports betting site and online casino. The launch is being supported by a substantial marketing campaign and it will be interesting to see where 888Poker.it lands among its competition once the dust has settled. The result could determine whether the company eventually moves into the French online poker market and seriously gets involved in pan-European liquidity sharing.

Consequently, it looks as though the launch of a pan-European market could be a bit of an anti-climax. The only two operators likely to take advantage of the initial liquidity sharing possibilities will be PokerStars and Party Poker – the latter being a very minor player in European regulated markets – while Winamax and 888Poker may just sit on the fence. Not quite the “great news for poker in Europe” forecast by some industry observers.

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Compliance Updates

EU Report Suggests Consumer Protection Approach to Tackle Loot Boxes

Niji Narayan

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EU Report Suggests Consumer Protection Approach to Tackle Loot Boxes
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A report commissioned by the EU Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee has recently come to the conclusion that the EU should stop approaching loot boxes as a gambling issue and treat the practice as a consumer protection issue.

The report concludes that while the problematic practice can be dangerous due to the way that it can prey on obsession and addiction, especially in younger players, gambling can only be regulated on a country to country basis. This would leave the rule of law for loot boxes and gambling in gaming fragmented among the Member States that make up the EU as each country will be allowed to create there rules separate from the others.

“Since gambling is a national competence of the Member States, approaching the issue from this angle may lead to a fragmented market for video games within the EU… It is therefore recommended to tackle problematic game designs from a wider consumer protection perspective,” the report said.

As a result of this report, the recommendation has been made that loot boxes and problematic game designs be treated as a consumer protection issues, which the EU has the power to set standards for across all Member States. This conclusion comes from the risks that loot boxes can pose to vulnerable and younger players who either may build addictive behaviours, or not understand the true values of their purchases.

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Compliance Updates

Gaming Innovation Group receives CSIE license in New Jersey, USA

George Miller

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Gaming Innovation Group receives CSIE license in New Jersey, USA
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Gaming Innovation Group (GiG) is pleased to announce its subsidiary, iGaming Cloud Inc., has today been granted a permanent casino service industry enterprise license (CSIE) from the Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) in New Jersey, USA. The application was filed back in June 2018, and GiG has supported Hard Rock International’s casino operations in New Jersey under a so-called transactional waiver pending the final approval.

The license is granted for five years and gives GiG a permanent license to provide its real-money online casino platform solution to operators in the state of New Jersey.

Richard Brown, CEO of GiG says: “We are delighted to receive the CSIE license after a long and comprehensive process. This is a great achievement for GiG and gives us a solid confirmation that our platform, procedures and operations are meeting the highest standards out there.”

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Compliance Updates

Smarkets introduces betting exchange to Swedish market

George Miller

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Smarkets introduces betting exchange to Swedish market
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Betting exchange Smarkets has launched in Sweden after receiving approval from the national regulator. The London-headquartered company operates one of the world’s leading peer-to-peer platforms for trading on sport, politics and current affairs, and it is now available to users in Sweden at smarkets.com.

Smarkets will become the second licensed betting exchange in Sweden, where online gaming and betting operators reported revenues of SEK14bn (£1.2bn) in 2019, according to figures from regulator Spelinspektionen and the Swedish Tax Agency.

As well as its UK base, Smarkets also has offices in Los Angeles and Malta, and is one of the industry’s only operators to own its full technology stack.

Jason Trost, Smarkets CEO/Founder, said: “We know that customers in Sweden have been eagerly anticipating us going live, so I’m very excited to launch the Smarkets exchange there.

“I am confident that our market-leading prices and superior product will appeal to Swedish customers. The fact that we own our tech stack is one of the reasons we are able to offer the best pricing in the industry, and I’m really looking forward to growing our user base in Sweden.”

Sweden is the second new market in which Smarkets has recently launched. Whilst Swedish customers will be able to use the Smarkets betting exchange, the company also introduced its SBK sportsbook app to bettors in the US state of Colorado in June, and plans to release SBK in Indiana before the end of the year. Smarkets has been available to users in the UK and Ireland since 2010.

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