The global poker community is complicated. In the past decade, the online poker industry has risen to the top of its game during the “poker boom” and fallen when the United States and other countries began booting big operators from their online poker markets. The rise to its former greatness is going to be a long road, and it is difficult to predict how long it will take due to the number of nations that must participate to make it happen.
Some countries are going to take years to rebuild their online poker communities, such as the United States in which one state each year or two will regulate online poker within its borders. Many European nations are slowly regulating on a country-by-country basis but segregating their player pools for the time being, as in countries like France, Spain, Italy, and Portugal.
On the other hand, some online poker markets are thriving. The UK instituted some licensing and taxation requirements over the past year but allowed player pools to remain integrated with the rest of the world. Though the taxes are burdensome to operators, players seem relatively unaffected, and the system is working to grow the industry while benefiting the UK.
Therefore, there are few predictions I’m even willing to go out on a limb to make. But for the sake of taking risks and hoping for progress, I’ll do it.
France and Spain Will Share Liquidity
Of the segregated online poker markets in Europe, France and Spain tend to be the most successful as well as the most realistic about the future. Each has seen revenue from online casino games, but gaming regulators know that the online poker industry is extremely limited without sharing liquidity across borders.
I believe that France and Spain will find a way to share online poker liquidity and enter into some such agreement.
Italy is very unlikely to join in any liquidity sharing deal, and Portugal is currently in the process of establishing its online gambling regime with segregation in place. Though Portugal’s law doesn’t require a segregated market, and eventual financials will surely show the error of the decision, Portugal seems likely to remain alone, at least through 2016.
Ukraine Will Regulate Online Gambling
Gambling has been illegal in Ukraine since 2009. However, in an attempt to gain more independence and financial stability, the nation is likely to march to the beat of a different drummer.
Just this month, the Ukrainian Ministry of Finance published a bill that will legalize and regulate online gambling, as well as sports betting and brick-and-mortar casino business. While the details are slow to emerge, it seems as if companies with more than €2 million in capital may apply for a gambling license. In addition, a gambling regulator will be created and overseen by the Finance Ministry.
Most of the details will likely be finalized in early 2016, and operators may be fully functional sometime during the year.
Macau Will Explore Online Gambling Possibilities
What was once a gaming giant and a threat to Las Vegas as the gaming capital of the world, Macau has experienced a terrible financial year. The most recent numbers show that the GDP of Macau fell 24% in the third quarter after a 26% fall in the second quarter of 2015. For 18 straight months, gambling revenue has decreased, as has the entire Macau economy for the last five quarters.
China has yet to consider online gambling for a number of reasons, but it may permit the gaming officials of Macau to study the issue. The revenue fall is hurting the overall economy of Macau, and some type of online gaming might be able to revive it and stop the damage.