The Principality of Andorra, a small country in the eastern Pyrenees Mountains between France in Spain, is closer to offering regulated online poker thanks to the final draft of a bill introducing new laws for live and online gambling.
The bill was first proposed in June of 2013, and went before the legislative committee of Andorra’s General Council of Economy last June for further review.
The new law puts online poker in the category of games involving both skill and luck, and operators must obtain a Class D license to offer online gambling in the country of 85,000, where gambling was previously illegal.
Antoni Riberaygua, Andorra’s Minister of the Presidency at the time the legislation was introduced, spoke of the proposed bill in a cautionary yet optimistic tone at its initial presentation: “This is about the opening of a new calm and prudent activity, which can lead to the growth and emergence of a sector potentially attractive to future visitors.”
Commitment to Consumer Protection
Andorra’s prudence with regard to gambling is evident as the revised bill includes more strict guidelines for age verification to prevent minors from gambling online.
Furthermore, only one license for land-based casinos will be awarded, while a proposal for an additional license contingent upon Andorra’s population reaching 100k was deemed premature, and struck from the bill.
Riberaygua made clear from beginning that Andorra’s approach to regulated gambling is one of moderation, and that the “American model” of casinos is to be avoided.
Showing concern for the social impact of gambling, he indicated that Andorra’s 10.2 million yearly visitors should be captivated by the country as a whole, and not “captive” to numerous gambling facilities. To that end, slot machines will only be available inside a single casino.
Andorra’s gambling activities will be regulated by the Consell Regulador Andorra del Joc (CRAJ), which will issue licenses for online poker operators as well.
Although Andorra is sandwiched between France and Spain, one would hope that its online gaming market could quickly grow into one without borders, allowing for shared player pools and a greater chance for success.
Sales of foreign lotteries in Andorra have already been discussed with neighboring regulators, with Ribergaygua adding “Confronting the regulation without the collective operation of the neighboring states was unthinkable.”
However, with France apparently uninterested in a shared liquidity agreement with Spain, it’s possible the Andorra’s infant online poker market will initially be on its own too, with unregulated gaming companies competing for action from Andorran poker players.
It seems an odd state of affairs for the tiny mountainous country, which has long been ruled by two princes- one each from France and Spain.
The good news for Andorrans is they’ll soon likely have more online poker options with consumer protections and security in place, and it will be up to licensees to differentiate their product offerings.
The pending gambling legislation is slated to go for a vote in the middle of 2015, following annual budget talks.