Last July 2017, the gaming regulatory authorities in Spain, France, Portugal and Italy signed an agreement in Rome, in which they undertook to implement the unification of online poker markets on a shared liquidity basis. From then, the regulators got down to work, as did the operators.

PokerStars was the first poker room to inaugurate the shared liquidity between France and Spain on 16 January 2018. The initiative was a success in terms of traffic and prizes, as we have seen in the quarterly reports that both the French ARJEL and the Spanish DGOJ have been publishing since then.

Meanwhile, in Portugal, the transition to shared liquidity remained pending for Pokerstars to obtain certification and homologation of its technical game systems. And in Italy, unification was stalled because the Gentiloni Government and the Democratic Party didn’t want to start the process, given the imminence of the general elections.

Months passed and PokerStars .fres continued to strengthen in France and Spain. And at the end of May, .fres became .frespt. PokerStars opened its tables to Portuguese players, who finally managed to get out of their particular playpen, which had already lasted too many years.

In early June, PartyPoker burst into shared liquidity. Skins such as PartyPoker, bwin and Pmu started operating jointly in France and Spain. However, the start was very modest, compared to the Canadian giant with the red spade. Traffic grew, prize pools improved, but could not come close to the PokerStars market figures.

The next trader to join the shared liquidity was not long in coming. At the end of June, Winamax received all the necessary licenses to operate in Spain and on July 10 it was released in our country, kicking off the .fres market.

While all this was happening, in Italy came the disaster.

The new Conte government brought together the populists of the 5 Stars Movement and the ultra-rightists of the Northern League, two parties that had previously demonstrated against all manifestations of the online game. The formation of the new Transalpine executive made us suspect that they wouldn’t bring us good news and unfortunately we weren’t wrong. At the beginning of July, the Council of Ministers approved the text of the Dignità Decree, which ruled on a complete ban on online game advertising. The implementation of the document was pending approval in the Senate and this came in mid-August. On the initiative of Minister Luigi Di Maio, the government banned poker-related advertising and betting in all media (television, sports clubs, sporting, cultural or artistic events, radio, press and even the Internet).

The measure has been like an earthquake for all online poker structures in Italy. Operators are considering suing the government. Players have lost protection from illegal gambling houses. And even the poker media will have to close down, as they can’t write about our game-sport.

At this juncture, it is a chimera to think about the unification of Italy to the project of shared liquidity. The solution to the problem is far from simple. Either European justice obliges the government to repeal the unworthy Decree; or there is an electoral advance and a change in the government.

Italian poker is going through very dark times and clarity can hardly be seen in a very, very distant horizon.

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