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When the global online poker market fell apart in the mid to late 2000s, many parts of the world decided to push forth on their own. Many countries felt it best to legalize and regulate online poker and gaming within their own borders, in a controlled environment that would simplify its monitoring and collection of profits. And in the absence of that option in places like the United States, individual states had to make solo efforts to launch their own segregated industries.

For places like America, the states had no choice but to launch individually, as the federal government had no intention of legalizing online gaming. And when European countries like France and Italy forged their own paths, others like Spain and Portugal did the same.

While some markets have found a reasonable amount of success, most have encountered significant struggles and a lack of growth. And as those difficulties become more complex and continue year after year, some nations – in Europe, for example – have decided that liquidity is the preferred strategy.

Read More: US-Europe Online Poker Liquidity as Likely as Unicorns

Unique Industry but Similar Problems

The issue is more pertinent than ever, as many countries in the world are struggling with the same concept on a much larger scale. Some call it nationalism or isolationism, but many simply call it a shift in focus from handling everyone else’s problems to taking care of one’s own first. The politics surrounding the concept alone are complicated and have proven to be very divisive.

The most well-known example was Brexit, which was made official in 2016 as the citizens of the United Kingdom decided to withdraw from the European Union. Months later, the voters of the United States indicated similar views when they voted for Donald Trump to become their next president, complete with an “America first” viewpoint. Similar votes expected in other European countries could signify that these votes were more of a trend than isolated incidences.

The outcome on a national and international scale will be years in the making. What is known now is that few countries in the world can survive entirely alone. Issues like trade and helping others in need are just a few of the reasons that partnerships around the world are not only beneficial but necessary.

Online poker is a much smaller and less significant example, but it has certainly shown that to be the case. Countries like France and Italy can operate and regulate their own online poker markets successfully, but in order to grow and expand and benefit more players, shared liquidity is vital.

Shared Liquidity is Vital for Online Poker Survival

Part of what led to and created the online poker boom was the global success of the game. The World Series of Poker Main Event grew so drastically in numbers because players around the world saw Chris Moneymaker win; he inspired players to play those online satellites, win their trips to Las Vegas, and try to mimic his success. And many players did just that.

The boom officially came to an end, however, when markets began excluding operators based on legal complications and an ever-segregating industry. When players could no longer win satellites to the WSOP, attendance began to drop. When many online poker operators could no longer attend the WSOP or offer swag and player lounges at the Rio, numbers fell. And when players were denied the ability to play on global online poker sites with massive prize pools and guarantees, their interest in the game changed and/or waned.

In order to draw players back to the game on a scale even remotely similar to the boom era, nations must band together to offer liquidity. Bigger online poker tournaments, cash game options, guarantees, series, satellites, and more site competition gives the industry another chance to grow.

European countries tried their own segregated markets and are now willing to come together. France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and the UK have initiated talks, which have now progressed to the stage that some insiders estimate the completion of a liquidity agreement could happen as soon as mid-2017.

For poker players around the world, this will be a welcome reversal of the past several years.

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Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.