PokerStars UK poker players are reacting angrily to news that the automatic top-up and rebuy functions will be removed from the new PokerStars UK client, in accordance with Gambling Commission regulations, thus putting them at a tactical disadvantage to foreign opponents.
The country’s new Gambling Act, which has now been delayed for a November 1 decision per London’s High Court, requires operators to be licensed and taxed in the UK, rather than by one of many whitelisted international jurisdictions, as was previously the case, in order to offer their services to British players. That means all operators, PokerStars included, must fall into line with UK regulation, which will also ban the use of the auto-top and rebuy options.
A UK Gambling Commission document from 2009 entitled “Remote Gambling and Software Technical Standards” advises that “gambling products must not actively encourage customers to chase their losses, increase their stake or increase the amount they have decided to gamble, or continue to gamble after they have indicated that they wish to stop.”
Furthermore, it states, “…the amount of funds taken into a product should not be topped up without the customer choosing to do so on each occasion; e.g., when a customer buys-in at a poker table they should have to choose to purchase more chips to play at the table; automatic re-buys should not be provided.”
PokerStars confirmed this week that under the new regime, UK players would remain in the same player pool as the .com site, but with a “slightly reduced” VIP program, in order to offset the punitive 15 percent point-of-consumption tax.
With British players remaining in the same player pool, playing against other players who do have auto top-up and rebuy functionalities at their disposal, it will put them at a huge disadvantage. Stack sizes are integral to decision-making in poker, and a lack of auto top-up will make optimal play impossible, particularly for those multitabling.
UK-based players aren’t taking the decision lying down, however. A petition, drafted by Richard Richardson, who has contributed in the past to Gambling Commission consultations, is currently being refined on the 2+2 forums before being submitted to the Gambling Commission with the aim of securing an exemption for the auto top-up and rebuy functions.
Richardson argues that, instead of its stated aim of helping gamblers make better and more responsible decisions, the ban will result in poor decision-making. The auto top-up function has been mistaken by regulators for a device that removes players’ ability to control the stakes being played, whereas, in fact, it exists to facilitate overall control of the games they are playing.
Multitabling, he explains, “to those that do not understand poker … might appear shocking or a symptom of problem gambling but for players choosing to multi-table it is in fact the opposite. By spreading the stakes at risk across multiple tables the variance in results due to chance is reduced and the ability to use skill is increased as more skilled decisions are made in the same time. Multi tabling does not really escalate stakes, it reduces them and instead increases the number of choices made.
“With automatic top up removed players would face having a different decision and different style on different tables played at the same time,” he continues. “This would be a significant disadvantage for such players compared to the non UK players who do not face this complication. This would affect the fairness of the game to the disadvantage of UK players.”
It’s a mature and articulate response from the UK poker community as it seeks to challenge the new pending law.