Online poker site PKR has ceased its operations in Italy and shut down its Italian online poker client indefinitely. The British company, which offers immersive, 3D online poker, stated that its continued presence in a declining Italian market that is becoming dominated by PokerStars is simply “not viable.”
“We regret to announce that PKR’s Italian platform will be closed starting from October 7, said a message posted on PKR.com last week, telling Italian players that “it will no longer possible to proceed with new deposits or to play at the room’s tables.”
A separate message, sent to the poker site’s affiliate advertisers, explained that PKR was abandoning Italy’s regulated poker industry due to its “poor performance,” adding that it would now focus on markets that could “more effectively drive our business forward.”
Market in Decline
Italy opted to liberalize and regulate online poker in 2011, opening the market up to offshore operators; however, fatally, it decided to ring-fence the player pools, which has stifled growth, and to tax operators highly, at 20 percent on gross gaming profit. High taxes tend to drive players towards unlicensed sites and operators licensed in less punitive regimes, where rake can generally afford to be lower and reward schemes more generous.
Cash game traffic has fallen steadily in Italy since regulation, and just last week a report showed how tournaments are suffering too. Tournament revenue for the industry in August fell 11.7 percent in comparison with the same month in 2013, to a total of â‚¬50 million ($63.8 million).
And yet, while most sites’ business spirals, the market share of PokerStars.it is increasing. PokerStars’ Italian platform boasted 70 percent of the country’s total tournament revenue in August, and nearly 60 percent of ring games. PokerStars.it has been garnering an average of 17,500 cash game players over the seven-day period recently, according to industry railbirds PokerScout.com, with nearest rival 888poker showing just 2,300.
In fact, PokerStars’ parent company Amaya Gaming recently halted plans to introduce Full Tilt, deciding that it was unnecessary to launch a new brand into a tepid market over which it already held dominion.
Meanwhile, in what might be considered cruel timing for Italian PKR fans, the online poker room offered a video teaser this week of the new Version 3 upgrade of its award-winning software.
The teaser promises to be the “biggest update” to the desktop software in the ten-year history of the poker site, as well as offering “faster gameplay, enhanced graphics and a smarter interface.” PKR assure us that the upgrade is coming very soon, but as yet there has been no fixed date for its release.
Italian players are requested to withdraw all the money in their accounts as soon as possible. Those with queries should contact PKR’s Italian customer service via email at email@example.com for further information and assistance.