France and Spain Could Share Poker Liquidity

May 8th, 2015 | by Greg Shaun
Spain French online poker liquidity

Spain says that they would welcome an online poker player sharing agreement with France. (Image: Spanish flag/Wikimedia)

Spanish online poker regulators say that they might be willing to share liquidity with French poker sites, a move that could generate increased traffic for poker players in both countries if it were to occur.

The announcement from the Directorate General for the Regulation of Gambling (DGOJ) didn’t outright say that any action would occur, but was positive towards talk of change in French regulations that would allow player sharing.

“DGOJ positively welcomes the news about possible changes in French legislation for online gaming,” the regulator said in a statement.

Liquidity Has Been Issue for France and Spain

Online poker in France has been faltering as of late, with traffic numbers seemingly in a never-ending state of decline. Meanwhile, the relatively new Spanish market is seeing a similar trend, with cash game traffic falling off in recent months.

One reason for this is a general lack of players to fill out the entire range of games and stakes available for players in these countries, a less dramatic form of the same issue that has been seen in states like Delaware and Nevada.

One solution is combining player pools, which can help keep games running in both countries.

The possibility of a French-Spanish online poker network increased after French Budger Minister Christian Eckert said that he believed a new iGaming bill should include a clause that would allow the French gambling regulator, ARJEL, to enter into shared liquidity pacts with other regulated jurisdictions.

Since Spanish regulations already allow for such pacts, France allowing for liquidity agreements would open up the possibility of a compact between the neighboring nations.

“This change in French regulation is a prior condition for France and Spain to address the possibility of an agreement of that nature in the medium term,” the DGOJ statement read. “What has so far been announced by the French Secretary of State is also good for the Spanish market.”

Sites Are Healthy in Both Countries, But Downward Trends are Concerning

Both France and Spain still have fairly healthy markets for online poker: France boasts an average of around 3,000 cash game players at the top four sites in nation, while PokerStars and 888poker combine to average around 1,300 players at their cash game tables. But the trends in both countries are still worrisome.

In France, the latest report from ARJEL showed that cash game action was down 15 percent in the first quarter of 2015 compared to the same period in 2014.

While some of that is due to the popularity of lottery-style tournaments and heavy taxation, liquidity has also been cited by many players and regulators as a key issue.

A similar story has occurred in Spain, though here it is less clear if there has actually been any real loss of traffic.

PokerStars has seen a drop off in cash game players in Spain, but that was largely due to the introduction of Spin & Go tournaments in the country last summer; overall, Spanish regulators said poker revenue fell by a modest 3.5 percent in 2014 compared to 2013.

Online gambling regulators in many European markets have suggested that sharing player liquidity could help bolster poker markets across the board. However, lawmakers have been slow to make the necessary changes that would help these pacts form.

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