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PokerStars and Full Tilt Withdraw From Grey Markets as US Entry Looms

PokerStars’ promise that the Amaya Gaming acquisition wouldn’t affect their operation in “current” markets has been smashed to pieces after they ceased operations in over 30 countries where it’s deemed that the market is “grey.”

The countries affected range from the likes of Afghanistan, all the way through the alphabet to Vatican City. Asia, Africa and the Middle East seem to be the most affected by the decision, and both Stars and Full Tilt have ensured players in those areas that their accounts are safe and all funds will be returned.

Our management team and advisors regularly review our operations market-by-market to assess commercial opportunities and business risks for our brands,” said an email sent to affected players. “Following a recent review we have decided to stop offering real money games to players who are physically located in, or have registered address in, a limited number of countries.”

The UK Gambling Commission

The date of the shutdowns was Oct. 1, 2014, which, incidentally, is the same date that the UK Gambling Commission initially intended to implement The Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Act 2014 in the UK.

This was also the date that PokerStars decided to drop a whole host of affiliates from their books, prompting outrage on affiliate forums. The UK Gambling Commission later moved the implementation date to Nov. 1, 2014 due to a High Court case levied against them by the Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association (GBGA).

Steven Stradbrooke of believes the significance behind the Oct. 1, 2014 date is the need for the new UK licensees to legally justify their involvement in a market where the company derived 3% or more of it’s total revenue.

A Return to the US

The other reason cited by Stradbrooke – and most other poker news sites that have carried the same story – is the need to be squeaky clean for their return to US cyber soil.

With the team feverishly working behind the scenes to ensure nothing stands in their way of a triumphant return to New Jersey cyber space, the last thing that Amaya Gaming needs is to be recognized as operating in a market that might, perhaps, could, be legal.

The trimming of the fat doesn’t just extend to “grey” markets. PokerStars have also cut several Team Pros from the wage bill, including: Marcel Luske, Joe Cada, Alex Kravchenko, Jose Barbero, Humberto Brenes, and Angel Guillen; and a series of ‘look at our squeaky clean business’ videos have also been created in connection with PokerStars HQ on the Isle of Man.

Still Taking that Canadian Bacon

One grey market that is not found nestled on the list in between Bangladesh and Cuba is Canada.

You may remember that PokerStars set tongues wagging when they withdrew their sponsorship deal for the Playground Poker Montreal Festival due to be held in Aug., 2014.

Amaya Gaming are still in discussion with Loto-Quebec about a nice black-looking licensing deal, but for the time being that card still looks very grey.

Not great news for one of the most successful poker nations in the world, and one that now houses a whole host of American online poker grinders who defected north after Black Friday.



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Lee Davy

Life can be viewed as the sum of the parts or the parts themselves. I believe in the holistic view of life, or the sum. When dealing with individual parts you develop whack-a-mole syndrome; each time you clobber one problem with your hammer another one just pops up.