PokerStars currency exchange fees are not sitting well with some players who withdraw their funds in a different currency than the one in which they carry their balance. The new exchange policy is drawing criticism from many players across the globe.
“PokerStars has historically applied the mid-market exchange rate from XE and before that Reuters, for exchanging between USD and GBP, EUR, and CAD,” wrote Michael Josem, the head of the PokerStars Communications Team, on the TwoPlusTwo forums. “That rate of exchange is simply not one you would have had from any financial institution or processor.”
Josem said that while the rates are not as good as they had been in the past, the new charges are still a good deal for players compared to other options.
“The policy change to introduce a margin on these currencies does move us more in line with the market, but we’re very confident that the new rate applied to your selected currency is still going to be extremely competitive,” he said. “In fact, we’d say that it’s better than that offered by most banks, card issuers and payment providers,” Josem claims.
But some players have questioned whether the margins on these exchanges are as competitive as PokerStars is claiming. According to one poster in the thread started by Josem, a conversion from dollars to euros appeared to have a margin of 2.4 percent. Others reported charges of around 2.5 percent for conversions between USD and EUR.
“No way that that’s cheaper than most banks like [Josem] claims,” wrote a poster named joeri. “It’s just another money grab by PokerStars.”
That post, along with several others, also questioned PokerStars’ decision to announce the fees without clarifying just how large they would be.
“This is the first post Amaya thing to really worry me that Amaya is out for quick money and may sacrifice the long term market position of stars to do it,” wrote twoplustwo poster SwoopAE.”
That sentiment was shared by many posters, who believe that the publicly owned Amaya Gaming is running PokerStars in a manner that is far different than when the site was owned privately by Rational Gaming. Other moves that have caused controversy include planned cutbacks to Supernova Elite rewards and the introduction of lottery-style Spin & Go tournaments. The site has also significantly reduced its roster of sponsored pros.
However, the takeover by Amaya Gaming may not be the reason (or, at least, not the only reason) behind these moves. The changing regulatory landscape has also been directly responsible for a number of changes at poker sites across the industry, particularly in the case of the new UK Gambling Act. That law has caused sites to revisit their gray market (and tax free) operations, and it has also added a 15 percent point of consumption tax to business done in the UK itself.
In a blog post earlier this week, PokerStars’ Head of Corporate Communications Eric Hollreiser said that the changes made to the site are simply good business, even if they’re not always popular with players.
“We know that some of these decisions will not be popular in all quarters and they’re not decisions taken lightly, but are made looking broadly across the poker ecosystem,” Hollreiser wrote.