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PokerStars’ Portugal move could have ramifications in Australia

Tue, Nov 29, 9:42am by Staff Writer

PokerStars’ formal approval to operate in the Portuguese market could have ramifications for the online poker giant’s presence in Australia.

PokerStars’ operator Amaya confirmed last week that they were considering their position in the Australian market in light of new legislation which would officially outlaw the provision of non-approved online gambling to Australians.

The Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill, which is likely to be approved in the federal parliament in the coming months, sets out specific sanctions for companies which breach the new law, including restrictions on company directors travelling to Australia.

But while PokerStars may opt out of the Australian market, their experience in Portugal indicates their absence may not be permanent.

Similar legislation in Portugal saw PokerStars exit that market in July 2015, but 18 months later, they are preparing to re-enter after receiving government approval.

On Monday, the regulators at Portugal’s Serviços de Regulação e Inspeção de Jogos (SRIJ) formally announced that they had issued an online gaming license to REEL Europe Ltd, an offshoot of PokerStars’ parent company Amaya Gaming.

The SRIJ’s License 005 paves the way for the launch of the new website.

PokerStars would become the first online poker operator approved by the SRIJ.

While the Portuguese market in itself is not large, with further approvals Portuguese players could then begin to play within a wider European market.

There are currently no plans to specifically approve online poker operators within Australia, but it would be no surprise if the next stage of regulation sees a move towards official licensing.

The immediate effect of the likes of reputable operators like PokerStars exiting the Australian market is users moving to other less reputable operators.

Concerns over that shift could lead a look to offer legitimate providers with a chance to operate in a more regulated Australian market, as has happened in Portugal.

Meanwhile, the future ownership of the entire PokerStars business remains uncertain, with Amaya the centre of a massive takeover bid from former CEO David Baazov.

Baazov, backed by several investors, had proposed a $6.7 billion takeover of the online gambling giant, but doubts have since emerged about who exactly is behind the bid.

Dubai firm KBC Aldini Capital has denied it is involved in any bid, but Baazov has since advised he is backed by two large Hong Kong investments firms.

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