The regulated online poker network in Spain has witnessed another amputation after the Casino Gran Madrid revealed plans to close their online poker room 31 July 2015.
The Casino Gran Madrid online poker room was a skin that operated on the ring fenced version of the iPoker network only made available to players based in Spain. The closure means there are only five remaining rooms on the network: Betfair, PremierPoker, Sportium, Bet365 and TitanBet.
All of that is a mute point, however, when you consider that PokerStars and 888 Holdings have a 90% stranglehold on the market. It’s little wonder that the Casino Gran Madrid told their customers, via e-mail, that they would only return when they had a ‘more appealing’ product. Roughly translated that means, ‘when we have enough players.’
The online poker room may be closing on 31 July 2015 but the online casino remains healthy and open to traffic. To this end customers are in no hurry to remove their online poker balances if they wish to use that money to play online casino games.
If they have no desire to hand their money back to the casino via table games then they have until Aug 31 to withdraw their funds, and exchange their VIP points for cash. Alternatively, players can exchange VIP points for live tournament buy-ins, but those tournaments must take place by the end of the year, and you still have to advise the casino by the end of August if this is your intention.
The brick and mortar poker room is still alive and kicking. In 2012, the Casino Gran Madrid poker room became the first to be splashed in the livery of PokerStars as part of the PokerStars LIVE roll out. The little poker heaven, situated in the municipality of Torrelodones, has been the venue of choice for the European Poker Tour (EPT) Season 8 Madrid event, the World Poker Tour (WPT) National Madrid and the highly successful Estrellas Poker Tour. The poker room can hold more than 20-tables, over 200 players and has an annual footfall of over 20,000 players.
Many Spanish grinders leave the country due to high rake and taxation in the country. Poker rooms have to pay a 25% tax on gross gaming revenues, and players have to fork out a 20% personal tax rate on net poker winnings. The upshot of which means players either leave the country or play on unregulated sites.
A recent study by Spain’s CODERE Foundation and the Institute of Policy and Governance of the Charles III University in Madrid found that a whopping 43% of Spanish online gamblers did so on illegal sites, with 27.4% of them having no idea the site they were playing on was even illegal.