Portugal’s long-awaited online gambling reforms came into force on June 28th, although the market is currently closed during the ongoing license application process.
However, the announcement in December that Portugal would be adopting the French model of a partial segregation of its player pool has angered the country’s poker players.
Under the French paradigm, international players are able to play on .fr sites, but players inside France are restricted from playing in the international player pool.
The French online poker market has been spiraling ever since it adopted this self-asphyxiating model in 2011.
Bad for Everyone
Portugal’s decision to follow suit is bad for players, because it limits the scope of games available and truncates prize pools. And it’s bad for the international player pool because it removes, in one fell swoop, an entire nation of over 10 million people from the virtual tables.
It’s also bad for operators entering the market, because without liquidity, they struggle to make money in a highly taxed and highly restrictive online poker landscape. It also makes it next-to-impossible to compete with the unregulated market.
The decision was all the more surprising because the Portuguese Gambling Act made no mention of ring-fencing, leading prospective operators to assume there would be no segregation.
Open Model Was Intended, Says Top Pol
One of the architects of the gambling act, Adolfo Mesquita Nunes, who left the post of Secretary of State for Tourism in November, wrote to ANAon to express his incredulity at the announcement.
“[The open model] was … approved by the government of which I was part,” he wrote. “This was the model that I left prepared as a government member, and these were the instructions I left. If it had been otherwise that would have been reflected in the act we adopted,” Nunes said.
“I do not consider the French model as a real international liquidity model,”he added. “I consider the [systems in Denmark and the UK] as models of international liquidity. It was by reference to these models that we prepared our own.”
ANAon, in an official statement, announced that segregation was not a “satisfactory option” and that its members would not “join the game.”
“This position is intended to alert the Portuguese regulator [SRIJ] that ANAon’s poker players will not use Portuguese-regulated rooms open only to domestic liquidity or those rooms [which] adopt the French model that accepts foreigners provided they register at the Portuguese platform,” said the organization.