PokerStars Withdraws From Slovenia and Israel
PokerStars has or will be pulling its services from two countries, opting not to take chances with running afoul of the law. On Monday, PokerStars withdrew from the Israeli market, while the world’s largest online poker room announced today that it will exit Slovenia as of July 4th.
As to the Slovenia decision, PokerStars e-mailed the following statement to the media:
Our management team regularly review our operations market-by-market to assess commercial opportunities and business risks for our brands. Following a recent review, we have decided to stop offering real money games to players who are physically located in, or have a registered address in, Slovenia from 4 July, 2016. Player balances remain safe and secure, and players are able to withdraw their real money balances at their convenience. We do not currently expect to withdraw services from any other locations in the foreseeable future, and a full question and answer page has been provided for affected players.
We hope that we will be able to return to the market in due course, and will continue to support the implementation of fair and consistent regulation that serves the needs of all stakeholders and includes a strong commitment to consumer protection, particularly of vulnerable people, in Slovenia. There is already a successful framework for such regulation in Europe and PokerStars is currently licensed in 12 EU countries. We hope to apply for a license in Slovenia when it is possible.
Slovenia has been working on developing online gaming regulations for about three years now and in March of this year, it notified the European Commission of its intended changes to its gambling laws. Amongst the changes is the legalization of online gambling, which would require operators to obtain a license, which would be good for ten years, with extensions good for five.
It appears that PokerStars has decided to withdraw from Slovenia for the time being while it waits for the new gaming laws to become official. Rather than try to make some extra money now by offering games without a license, PokerStars wants to be free of black marks on its record with the country’s gaming authority when it comes time to finally apply for a license.
The initial message to PokerStars customers in Israel was nearly identical to the first paragraph in PokerStars’ statement above, through the “Player balances remain safe and secure….” sentence. Unlike with Slovenia, though, it does not look like there are any plans to re-enter Israel any time soon. Israel is a “grey market” in so much that online poker is neither explicitly legal or illegal. Most traditional forms of gambling are illegal, however, and those laws have generally been extended to internet gaming.
Thus, whereas PokerStars wants to make sure it doesn’t upset Slovenian regulators in anticipation of a future license application in the country, PokerStars is probably aiming to try to keep its resume clean for other countries’ regulators when it comes to pulling out of Israel. Of particular concern is the United States, where Pennsylvania may soon legalize online gambling and California is working at it. By not participating in grey markets, PokerStars can steer clear of any doubt as to whether it was following the laws of all jurisdictions.
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