EuroPoker parent company EPMEDIA recently filed for bankruptcy and will meet in court this week to discuss their insolvency. French gambling authority ARJEL (AutoritÃ© de rÃ©gulation des jeux en ligne) reported the matter.
The company tried unsuccessfully to migrate from Ongame France to the iPoker France network, a move intended to provide access to more player liquidity within the French online poker market, and have instead reported to the Bobigny court that it could no longer afford to make its payments.
Tasked with ensuring consumer protection, among a host of regulatory responsibilities, ARJEL indicated that the court will examine EPMEDIA’s financial situation and appoint a Judge-Commissioner to oversee the liquidation of assets, should the bankruptcy move forward.
After an appointed liquidator determines the company’s assets and liabilities, claims against the assets can be submitted, and the liquidator will provide a list of all claimants, including poker players seeking account refunds, to the Judge-Commissioner. ARJEL will then enforce a guarantee initially signed by EPMEDIA, and required of subsequent licensees, to refund player account balances.
The agreement excludes tournament tickets, player points, and unexpired bonuses however.
If the refund process sounds familiar, that is because it arose as a result of France’s investigation of the Full Tilt scandal, although an actual government imposed player refund guarantee is thus far unique to the French jurisdiction. ARJEL will likewise provide informational updates on a websiteÂ Ã laÂ Garden City Group for Full Tilt, to serve claimants throughout the proceedings.
While this is the first regulated online poker bankruptcy ARJEL will preside over, thereby testing its consumer protection policies, one may wonder to what degree the inherently prohibitive online poker environment in France may have contributed to EuroPoker’s impending demise.
With taxation at 37 percent, a closed-border policy on player liquidity, and a lack of game variety, France appears content to shoot its regulated online poker market in the foot while effectively encouraging French poker players to look or relocate elsewhere for more reasonably raked games.
Although ARJEL shares much of the recent blame for its market woes, with its new president Charles Coppolani practically announcing the death of online poker in France, the regulating body can be credited for pushing international player liquidity under the previous leadership of Jean-FranÃ§ois Vilotte.
Unfortunately for the struggling market however, he was unable to convince the French Parliament of the benefits of player pool expansion beyond their borders, while the new president dismissed online poker as a “fad”.
At this point, one can only hope for the French market that Coppolani and ARJEL will one day lean toward advocacy again, if US-regulated states or other jurisdictions can successfully model the benefits of player liquidity and reasonable taxation, for example. On both accounts, we offer a sincere bonne chance.