Casino Gran Madrid will shut down its poker portal, the third largest in the Spanish market, on July 31, citing an inability to “provide an attractive product in a hostile environment.”
While the site, a skin of the iPoker network, lingers some way behind PokerStars.es and 888.es in the liquidity rankings, it still attracts a few hundred players at peak times.
However, in a highly-taxed, ring-fenced market, it appears that that isn’t enough.
Licensed operators in Spain pay a particularly high 25 percent tax on gross gaming revenues.
To compensate for the shortfall, players in the regulated markets pay a slightly higher rake.
At PokerStars.es, for example, players pay a maximum rake of 5.35 percent, capped at €3.00 per hand ($3.30).
In general, .es rake is 20 to 40 percent higher than the .com equivalent.
This, coupled with curtailed bonuses and promotions, as well as a high taxation on net poker winnings (20 percent), is killing the game, driving players away and into the clutches of the offshore markets.
The Game in Spain Falls Vainly Down the Drain
A study last year, conducted by Spain’s CODERE Foundation and the Institute of Policy and Governance of the Charles III University in Madrid, found that 43 percent of Spain’s online gamblers play on illegal sites and many care little about their country’s regulatory efforts. Some 12 percent admitted that they played exclusively on offshore sites.
Since online casino gamblers vastly outnumber online poker players, and don’t have to worry about exorbitant rake prices, the number of poker players that eschew the regulated market must be much higher.
Furthermore, the same study found that 27.4 percent of respondents said they had no idea about the real location of their chosen online casinos and poker rooms, while 43.8 percent explained that they believed the companies “may be located in Spain.”
The result of such indifference to the regulated market is that, since Spain chose to regulate and ring-fence in 2011, it has has halved in size.
“Poker Does Not Stop”
Casino Gran Madrid announced the closure of the site via an email to its players, advising that balances will still be available for play at its online casino.
Those who wished to withdraw their funds, meanwhile, were advised to convert their loyalty scheme points before August 31, or risk losing them for good.
The casino also announced that it hoped to resurrect its online poker operations at a time when it is able to “have a more attractive offering for our players,” a thinly-veiled dig at the self-asphyxiating licensing regime.
“Poker at the Casino Gran Madrid does not stop,” said the casino. “You will continue to have the best tournaments and live cash games in Casino Gran Madrid, Torrelodones. Furthermore, when online poker returns to our catalogue of games, something we do not doubt will occur, our players will be the first to know.”