Andorra, the small nation sandwiched between the borders of Spain and France, is close to approving online poker and other gaming options.
The Legislative Committee has produced the final version of a bill that would update Andorra’s gambling laws, paving the way for parliament to take up the issue and potentially pass the legislation into law.
The new law would explicitly allow for Internet poker. Operators would be required to obtain a class D license, which would specifically allow them to offer games that include a combination of skill and luck in their gameplay.
The online gambling proposals may actually be secondary to the main selling point of the bill: the idea of allowing for a single casino license for a brick-and-mortar casino in the country. While Andorra only has a population of about 85,000 people, it does attract over 10 million tourists each year, making it a lucrative spot for a resort casino.
In an earlier version of the bill, there was also a provision for a second casino license should the population of the nation exceed 100,000. However, legislators removed that clause, deeming it as premature.
Online licenses will be handled by a new regulator created by the legislation, the Consell Regulador Andorra del Joc (CRAJ). The newest version of the bill also includes provisions that would make it more difficult for minors to get around age verification systems at any online poker sites that should open in the country.
Andorra first announced that it would regulate gambling, which had previously been forbidden in the country, in June 2013. Surprisingly, the legislature decided to allow for both land-based and online gambling at the same time, and allow for a full range of gambling offerings for players.
The nation is hoping that operators can be attracted to its borders with the help of a competitive tax system that might allow gambling to become a major force in the Andorran economy. While the exact nature of these tax benefits in the current bill are unclear, Andorran Minister of the Presidency Antoni Riberaygua said earlier this year that for land-based operators, a tax deduction would be given if they offered overnight hotel accommodations for guests.
Andorra is already known for its low corporate tax rate, which may also be attractive to operators.
It is likely that the bill will be debated and voted on sometime in 2015, after the annual budget is dealt with during the middle of the year. While Andorra utilizes the Euro as its currency, it is not part of the European Union, meaning its gambling laws would not be subjected to the same scrutiny as those in many other European nations.
The specifics of how online poker in Andorra would work are still unclear. The government could attempt to set up the principality as another international hub for the industry, similar to Gibraltar or the Isle of Man. That would seemingly make more sense than a local, segregated approach: while the heavy tourism in Andorra might make a small site more viable than its population may suggest, it still wouldn’t be a very attractive prospect for operators.